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Being the Story of 

The part played in the Great War 

by the Royal Air Force 




31 ^ 






London Edinburgh Glasgow New York 

Toronto Melbourne Capetown Bombay 

Calcutta Madras 






In this final volume the story of the war operations and 
developments of the air services is brought to a conclusion 
hy narratives dealing v^ith the events leading to the crea- 
tion of the Royal Air Force; with supply and man-power 
problems; the genesis and work of the Independent Force; 
the campaigns in 191 8 in Palestine, Trans-Jordan, and 
Syria, in Mesopotamia, Persia, and Russian Azerbaijan, 
in Macedonia, and in Italy; with air action throughout 
the war in India; with naval aircraft co-operation in 191 8 
in home waters and in the Mediterranean; and with the 
Allied offensives on the Western front. In the appendix 
volume, which accompanies the text, papers of value to the 
student of air power have been assembled, together with 
a number of specially prepared statistical compilations. 

Of particular interest is the account of war-time 
problems of supply and of man-power, circulated depart- 
mentally in 1934, in v/hich the difficulties, delays, and 
high costs associated with the improvisation on a large 
scale of a technical service are revealed. Of the same 
degree of interest are the results, now set out for the first 
time in the section dealing with German night bombing 
in the eleventh chapter, of the more important air attacks 
made on depots, &c., on the Western front in 191 8. 

The author offers his thanks to the President of the 
Reichsarchiv, renamed the Forschungsanstalt fur Kriegs- 
und Heeresgeschichtey for placing certain of the German 
official records at his disposal during a visit to Berlin in 
1934. These documents, among which there were some 
important gaps, had reference to the damage inflicted by 
Allied bombing attacks on targets in German territory 
during the war, and the results of the research are in- 
corporated in the narrative dealing with the operations 
of the Independent Force. The information obtained 
from the German official records was amplified and sup- 
plemented from a series of reports made by officers of the 


staff of the Independent Force who visited many bombing 
targets and examined witnesses as soon as hostihties had 

The author would Hke to take this last opportunity to 
make some acknowledgements. He thanks the official 
military historian and his staff, and the secretary and 
staff of the Historical Section of the Committee of Im- 
perial Defence, for the advice and help they have always 
placed so freely at his disposal. He is also in the debt of 
the Military Branch of the Historical Section with regard 
to maps 2 to 9, II to 14, and 16, which have been taken, 
sometimes with adaptation, from the official military his- 
tories. In the absence of Professor D. Nichol Smith in 
America the proofs were read by Dr. W. P. Barrett, who 
made many valuable suggestions. Finally the author pays 
tribute once again to the splendid assistance he has re- 
ceived, from beginning to end of the work, from the staff 
of the former Air Historical Branch. 



CHAPTER I. The Creation of the Royal Air 

Force ..... pp. 1-27 

Strength of Western front. Other fields of victory ? Lessons of the 
daylight attacks on England. Decision to double the air services. 
Forty long-range bombing squadrons. Views of Sir Douglas Haig. 

Summary of attempts to co-ordinate matters affecting the naval 
and military air services. Weaknesses of the Air Boards. Lieutenant- 
General J. C. Smuts recommends formation of an Air Ministry and 
amalgamation of the two air services. Government accept in principle. 

Air Organization Committee. Work of Sir David Henderson. Sir 
Douglas Haig critical of the Smuts Report. 

German night-bombing campaign against England. Urge for 
retaliation. Lieutenant-General Smuts asked to investigate. 'Back- 
ward in all our preparations.' War Cabinet decisions about priorities. 
Importance of the War Priorities Committee. 

Doubts whether a separate Air Force would be formed. An- 
nouncement in the Commons. Lord Cowdray resigns. Air Force 
(Constitution) Act. The First Air Council. Housing the Air Ministry. 
Ardians and Bannerets. 

CHAPTER II. Problems of Supply and of Man- 
Power ..... pp. 28-100 

Engines and men, limiting factors of air expansion. Aircraft industry 
late in the field. Inexpert labour. December 1916 engine output 600 
per month. Requirements 2,000 per month. New production pro- 

Standardization of Engines . . . . p. 32 

Engine chosen for mass production. Guidance of Advisory Com- 
mittee for Aeronautics. Misgivings. 

^he Sunbeam 'Arab^ Failure . . . p. 34 

Reasons and effect. 

The Hispano-Suiza . . . . • P- 35 

Modifications of design retard output. Defects of some engines made 
in France. Engines and morale. Reward of Admiralty foresight. 

Failure of the B.H.P. Engine . . • P- 37 

Changes in design. The aluminium cylinder. Difficulties of casting. 
Effect on output. 

A War Cabinet Investigation . . • P- 39 

Government (July 1 91 7) decision to double the air services increased 
the engine requirements to 4,500 monthly. German night-bombing 


campaign, September 191 7, reopens question of air expansion. A shock 
for the Cabinet. The priority problem. 

The Bentley Rotary . . . . . p. 43 

I^arge orders. A new engine, the Dragonfly, arouses enthusiasm. And 
misgivings. Bentley or Dragonfly] 

Rolls-Royce Output . . . . . p. 45 

Importance of Rolls-Royce engines in 191 8 programme. Foresight 
of the Rolls-Royce Company. Advocacy of the Central Factory idea 
in 1916. Air Board reluctance. Lost opportunities. Repairs problems. 
Making Rolls-Royce parts in America for assembly in England. 

1^ he Liberty Engine . . . . . p. 51 

A successful design. Production difficulties in America. How the 
British air programmes were affected. 

National Aircraft Factories . . . • P- S3 

The Ministry of Munitions and problems of air expansion. The 
Government as aircraft manufacturers. Costs and output of the 
National Factories. 

Man-Power . . . . . . p. 57 

Unemployment fears in 191 4. Skilled workers enlist. Lost to the 
engineering firms. Mr. Balfour surveys the man-power problem. 
A statesmanlike paper. Lord Kitchener objects to control. 

Industrial unrest. Mr. Lloyd George and the Ministry of Muni- 
tions. Equipment for seventy divisions. 'Dilution' of labour. 

Man-power difficulties. Shortage of army recruits. Too many 
exemption badges. Attempts to take men from protected industries. 

Unrestricted U-boat warfare, 191 7, imposes new claims on man- 

Air Expansion programmes affected by man-power difficulties. 
War Office set up a Dilution Board. Expansion dependent upon the 
recruitment of women. 

Women in the Services . . . . . p. 70 

Brief account of the recruitment of women to the armed forces. 
Women in the air services. The Women's Royal Air Force. Women 
overseas. Royal Air Force Nursing Service. 

Man-Power Committee . . . . p. 74 

Man-power crisis. Man-power Committee formed. Their draft 
report, December 191 7. Main recommendation. Order of priority 
for personnel. A comb-out in the army. Help from the American 
army. American mechanics with Royal Flying Corps units. 


America and the Air War . . . . p. 78 

The American air programme. A telegram from the French premier 
changes the outlook. A British Aviation Mission to the U.S.A. 
General aspects of the entry of America into the war. Some effects on 
the British aircraft industry. The silver spruce shortage. 

Effect of the German igi8 Offensive . . p. 82 

Increasing the army's man-power. Taking men from protected in- 
dustries. Reasoned protest of Mr. Winston Churchill, Minister of 
Munitions. Effect on engine output. 
Training factories of the Ministry of Munitions. 
Statistics of men, women, and boys in the aircraft industry. 

Propaganda among the Workers . . . p. 85 

Outlook of early war days. The worker as a man apart. Muddling 
through. The time element in war. Proposals of the managing- 
director of the Rolls-Royce Company. Propaganda efforts of the 
Ministry of Munitions. 'Boyd Cable'. His writings and lectures. 
Lecture Branch of the Aircraft Production Department. Artists at 

Air Expansion Programmes . . . . p. 89 

Details of the various programmes. 

Importance of Reserves . . . . p. 91 

Statistics of aircraft wastage. What they show. Need for large 
reserves. Some reflections. 

A Summary . . . . . • P- 95 

Praise for the departments responsible for aircraft supplies. Some of 
the difficulties overcome. Control of linen. Developing the cultiva- 
tion of flax. Dopes. The manufacture of cellulose acetate. The 
magneto industry. Bowden tubes. Value of aircraft contracts out- 
standing at end of the war. 

Summary of the main reasons why the air expansion programmes 
were not fulfilled. 

General comments. 

CHAPTER III. The Independent Bombing 

Force. Matters of Policy . . pp. 101-117 

A communication from His Majesty the King of Spain. The bomb- 
ing of undefended towns. An arrangement with Germany ? A state- 
ment in the Bavarian Chamber. The legal question. Views of the 
British General Staff. The Government retain freedom of action. 
Sir William Weir succeeds Lord Rothermere as Air Minister. His 


memorandum to the Cabinet on Air Ministry policy. Decision of the 
Air Policy Committee of the War Cabinet. 

A strategic bombing force. Its control. The Supreme War Council. 
Versailles discussions. General Duval is puzzled. The French view 
that the bombing force should be placed under Foch. What consti- 
tutes a balance of aircraft resources? Joint Note No. 35. An Inter- 
Allied Bombing Force. M. Clemenceau refers to Marshal Foch. 
Views of Foch. Removing the Independent Force to England ? Lord 
Weir writes to M. Clemenceau. A memorandum of Marshal Foch 
in reply. Impasse. 

A change in the outlook on the Western front. The War Cabinet 
consider the new conditions. British Government agree to place the 
Independent Force under the Generalissimo. Major-General Tren- 
chard as Commander-in-Chief of the Inter-Allied Independent Air 
Force. Heads of the Agreement. 

Comments on the appointment. 

Additional facts for the student. Military theory. Other consi- 

CHAPTER IV. Operations of the Independent 

Force 1917-18 . . . • PP- 1 18-174 

The Luxeuil naval bombing wing, 1916. German evidence of bomb- 
ing results. Air defences of Germany reorganized. Balloon aprons. 
Bombing operations in early months of 1917. The naval bombers dis- 
band. Comments. 

^he Forty -fir St Wing . . . . p. 122 

German night bombing of England, September 191 7. Counter- 
offensive. A new wing formed. Bombing plans. The French plan. 
Attacks on the aerodrome of the bombers at Ochey. Typical raids on 
German industrial and other targets, October 1917 to June 1918. 
No. 55 Squadron. The day attack on Cologne of 1 8th May. The 
night bombers. Helping the French. 

l^he Independent Force . . . . p. 135 

Major-General Trenchard's views about the employment of the 
Force. Comments. Day and night attacks. 

No. 99 Squadron. A raid on Thionville station. The D.H.9 
aeroplane. New squadrons arrive. Many attacks on Rhineland 
towns. Handley Pages of No. 215 Squadron low down over 
Mannheim. German opposition in the air increases. The Burbach 
works damaged. 

Helping the French and American armies. 

Arrival of No. 45 Fighter Squadron. 

A 1,650-lb. bomb on Kaiserslautern. Small arms factory destroyed. 
Heavy casualties in Bonn. A Metz powder magazine blows up. 


General Observations , . . . . p. 152 

German statistics of bombing attacks. The major effects of the raids. 
Air raid alarms. What German records show. The Volklingen works. 
Alarms and loss of output. The morale of the workers. The Badische 
chemical works. 

The German balloon barrage. 

A survey of the results of railway bombing. Buildings of solid 
construction. Tribute to the German railway staffs. 

Aerodrome Bombing . . . . . p. 158 

Reasons for attacks on German aerodromes. Results achieved. Parti- 
culars of German attacks on British aerodromes analysed. Lessons 
and comments. Orders of Marshal Foch. 

Independent Force Expansion Programmes . p. 164 

The Independent Bombing Force never existed. Paper squadrons. 
Makeshift bombers. 

Bombing from England. No. 27 Group. The Super-Handley Page. 
Berlin within reach. 

Proposal to move the Independent Force to Prague. 

CHAPTER V. Air Operations in Palestine in 

1918 pp. 175-238 

After the capture of Jerusalem. The Palestine Brigade, Royal Flying 
Corps. Work of the squadrons. 

^ he Jordan Valley . . . . . p. 177 

Driving the Turks across the Jordan. 

A Dead Sea adventure. 

A change in the enemy supreme command. The character of 
General Liman von Sanders. Changes in the enemy dispositions. 

Securing the line of the Wadi el 'Auja. 

The Arab Campaign P- 183 

The Arab Northern Army. Colonel T. E. Lawrence. 'X' Flight of 
No. 14 Squadron with the Arabs. Reconnaissances and bombing. 

The ^ Amman Raid . . . . . p. 185 

Forcing the passage of the Jordan. Rain and sleet. Australians in 
Es Salt. Air Reconnaissances. Failure. 

The German offensive in France. Palestine plans shelved. Divisions 
move to France. 

The Hejaz Railway . . . . . p. 193 

Operations by the Arab armies. Work of 'X' Flight. 
In the Jordan valley. What air reconnaissance revealed. 


The Es Salt Raid P- ^94 

Harvest time east of the Jordan. Advance into Moab. Envoys from 
the Beni Sakr tribe. Why the raid failed. Surprise intervention of 
Turkish reinforcements. Why they were not discovered from the air. 
Credit for the Turkish commander. 

Summer Operations . . . . • P- 200 

Work of the squadrons during minor operations. Air reinforcements. 

Balloon Observation . . . . • P* 202 

Work of the Balloon Sections. 

'Z' Flight with the Arabs . . . .p. 204 

Operations at Mudauwara. 

The Final Offensive . . . . • P- 205 

The plan. Value of air superiority. 

Plight of the German air service. Order of battle of the Palestine 
Brigade. Part played by the Royal Air Force in the preliminary opera- 
tions. Deceiving the enemy. Liman von Sanders inflexible. 

The offensive opens. Air bombing. Communications shattered. 
The fog of war. Keeping the German aeroplanes out of the air. 

Surveying the ways of retreat. Laying smoke screens from the air. 

What the air reports revealed. Bombing the Turks. Panic flight. 
A pilot's adventure. Bringing in the German mail. Using the El 
'Affule aerodrome. Into Nazareth. Liman von Sanders escapes. 

The position on the evening of the 20th September. Ways of 
escape across the Jordan. 

The 2 1 St September. Intensive air attacks on the Turkish columns. 
The Wadi el Far^a bombing. Valley of death. 

Closing a gap across the Jordan. End of Turkish Seventh Army. 

Chaytor'^s Force . . . . . • P* 228 

The Turkish Fourth Army moves late. Colonel Lawrence confers with 
General Allenby. Air reinforcements for the Arab army. Air fighting 
over the Arabs. 

Chaytor's Force in the Jordan valley. In pursuit of the Turks. Air 
bombing. 'Amman captured. 

The Turkish force in Ziza station. Message dropped from the air 
for Turkish commander. Surrender demanded. Threat of air bombing. 
Loot-seeking Bedouin. The Turks surrender. 

The general advance. The move to Damascus. Aircraft co-opera- 
tion. Damascus entered. Burned aeroplanes on Riyaq aerodrome. 
The advance to Aleppo. Air adventures. 


CHAPTER VI. Mesopotamia, Persia, and 

India ...... pp. 239-272 

A War Office telegram summarizes position in the Near East. Role 
of the army in Mesopotamia. 

Tribal conflict on the Persian border. Aeroplanes in action. 

Driving the Turks from the Tuz Khurmatli-Qara Tepe area. Air- 
craft co-operation. Kirkuk entered. Withdrawal. Disposition of the 
air units, May 191 8. 

Persia and the Caspian Sea . . . • P- 248 

Colonel Bicharakoff's Russian detachment. British take over in Kaz- 
vin. Russians move to Enzeli with a British detachment. The action 
at Manjil. Two aeroplanes help. Holding the Jangalis in check. A 
tribute to the work of the aeroplanes. The action at Resht. Aeroplane 
bombing. Air base at Enzeli. The Jangalis submit. 

The Christians of Urmia . . . . p. 251 

The Christians of Urmia withstand Turkish attacks. They ask for 
British help. A message to Urmia by air. An ammunition convoy sets 
out. Delay. The Turks enter Urmia. Massacre. Encampments for 
the refugees. 

The Caspian . . . . . . p. 252 

Colonel Bicharakoff joins the Bolshevik revolutionaries. New governors 
of Baku ask for British aid. British mission to Baku. Reinforcements 
with aeroplanes go to Baku. They help to defend the town against 
Turkish attacks. Work of the aeroplanes. Withdrawal. 

A threat to the lines of communications. Large bodies of Turks 
at Tabriz and Urmia. The hills of Kuflan Kuh. Air reconnaissances 
reveal attack impending. The attack opens. Fierce fighting. Timely 
arrival of British troops withdrawn from Baku. Air bombing attacks. 
Propaganda from the air. A pilot on foot in Persia. A modest report. 
Final operations in Persia. 

The Autumn Campaign in Mesopotamia . . p. 262 

The military situation in the Middle East summarized in a War Office 
telegram, 25th September. Final offensive in Mesopotamia. The 
air units. Survey work of the squadrons. On the move. Turks 
abandon the Fat-ha positions. Air bombing. The stand at Sharqat. 
Final battle. The Turks surrender. Mosul vilayet occupied. 

War Operations in India . . . • P- 268 

The central flying school at Sitapur, 1914. No. 31 Squadron from 
England. Air operations on the Mohmand border, 1916. The aero- 
drome at Risalpur. 

Unrest in North Waziristan and in Khost. 'Flying chariots.' A 
Mahsud lashkar. Aeroplanes overawe the tribesmen. A Peace Jirga. 


No. 114 Squadron formed at Lahore. The Marri tribes astir, 
February 191 8. The Khetran tribes join in. Punitive measures. 
Bombing villages and camps. Unconditional submission. Peace. 

CHAPTER VII. The Italian Front . pp. 273-292 

The break-through at Caporetto. Role of the German air service. 
British and French reinforcements for Italy. Air squadrons. The air 
situation on the front when the British arrive. 

Trench warfare. Reconnaissances and bombing. Attack on Istrana 
aerodrome. Bombing and counter-bombing. 

Reduction of the British force, March 1918. Signs of an impending 
enemy offensive. The Austrian attack, 15th June. Across the Piave. 
British aeroplanes concentrated to help the Italians. Bombing the 
Piave bridges. The Austrian advance checked. The Piave in spate. 
Bridges washed away. Italian counter-attacks. The Austrians with- 
draw. Bombing the retreating troops. An Austrian account of the 
bombing of the bridges. 

Air help for the Italians in a minor offensive. Air fighting. Attack 
on Austrian flying training schools. 

^he Battle of Vittorio Veneto . . • P- 288 

The Italian Commander-in-Chief opens a final offensive. The plan. 
Royal Air Force concentration in the Asiago area. Air photography. 
The offensive opens, 27th October. Contact patrols. Reporting the 
advance. 'Situation' flights. Final bombing operations. 

CHAPTER VIII. Macedonia. Final Air Opera- 
tions, 191 8 . . . . pp. 293-313 

General Milne's request for an increase of air strength. Inadequate 
response. An Allied military operation. The Greek Army in action. 
Royal Air Force co-operation. News of an impending Bulgar attack. 
Why the attack did not take place. 

General Franchet d'Esperey as Allied Commander-in-Chief. Plan- 
ning a general offensive. Air bombing attacks. 

Requirements of General Milne for the offensive. A shortage of 
tyres and spare parts for transport. Effect of destruction by German 
bombers of tyres and spare parts in Western front depot. 

The plan for the offensive. The British sector. A preliminary 
action. Air combats. Observing for the artillery. 

The attack opens, 15th September. British attack two days later. 
Order of battle of the Royal Air Force units. Air work during the 
battle. Enemy pilots inactive. 

Landing agents behind the enemy lines. 

Air reconnaissances tell of the Bulgar retreat. Bombing troops and 
transport. The Kosturino defile. Long-distance reconnaissances. 


Bulgars demoralized. Tribute to the Bulgarian First Army. Bomb- 
ing in the Kryesna pass. 'Choked with transport.' Attacking the 
columns. Reports of officers who examined the routes. Collapse of 

British army to move against Turkey. Royal Air Force movements. 

CHAPTER IX. The Mediterranean in 

1918 PP- 314-328 

Reorganization of air units in the Mediterranean. Dispositions and 
duties of the air groups. 

Kite Balloons with Convoys . . . . p. 316 

Increased employment of kite balloons. Where should the balloon 
ship be stationed? Divided opinion. Examples of balloon work. 

^he Otranto Barrage . . . . p. 318 

Importance of the Straits of Otranto. Activities of U-boats. Con- 
stitution of the Otranto barrage. Aircraft versus U-boats. 
Bombing attacks on U-boat bases in the Adriatic. 

7 he Aegean Group . . . . . p. 323 

Duties of the Group. Bombing and counter-bombing. 

The Egypt Group . . . . . p. 325 

Seaplanes and kite balloons at Alexandria and Port Said. Escorting 

Duties of Mediterranean aircraft in connexion with military opera- 
tions. Italian offensive in Albania. Aircraft co-operation. A com- 
bined action against Durazzo. Bombing in Macedonia. 

CHAPTER X. Naval Air Developments and 

Operations, 191 8. Home Waters . pp. 329-96 

General influence of the U-boat campaign. 

Aeroplane versus U-boat . . . . p. 329 

Change in U-boat tactics. Activity close to the coasts. Suitability of 
aeroplanes for patrols. The D.H.6. 'A reasonable measure of bluff.' 
Disadvantages of the D.H.6. Fine work of the patrol personnel. An 
Admiralty tribute. 

Admiralty Air Requirements . . . p. 334 

A statement of Admiralty policy for the employment of aircraft. 
Establishments. Supply difficulties. Reductions in the programme. 
The position at the end of the war. 


Hydrofhone Experiments . . . , p. 341 

Various types of hydrophones. Their use in seaplanes and airships. 

Anti-Submarine Aircraft Patrols . . • P- 343 

Mileage flown in 1917 and 1918. Comparisons. Value of the patrols. 

U-boats Destroyed . . . . • P- 345 

An account of some of the attacks by aircraft on U-boats. 

Submarine Attacks on Convoys . . • P- 34^ 

Air Escort work. Statistics for 191 8. 

Mine-fields in the Heligoland Bight . . p. 350 

Hampering the passage of U-boats. Air reconnaissances of the mine- 

Lighters built to carry flying-boats. Making use of the lighters to 
convey fighter aeroplanes. Two schemes for reconnaissance. Opera- 
tions under Scheme 'B'. 

Destruction of a Zefpelin .... p. 355 

The Zeppelin L.62 makes a routine patrol. Plotting her course in 
London. A flying-boat goes out to attack her. Air report. The L.62 
blows up. 

Vulnerability of the airships increases the importance of the German 
seaplane service. Expansion of the seaplane bases. Types of seaplanes 
employed. Air fights. Periodical sweeps by the Harwich Force. 
Flying-boats in action. The report of the leader. The aircraft carrier 
Furious in a Bight operation. 

Attacking Zeppelins in their sheds. The great raid on Tondern. 
The L.54 and L.60 destroyed. 

Coastal Motor-boat Operations , . • P- 3^7 

Plans for a motor-boat dash across the mine-fields. A kite balloon and 
flying-boats play a part. Disappointments. 

Flying off a lighter. Colonel C. R. Samson nearly drowned. 

The Harwich Force sets out for the Bight. German seaplanes in 
view. A Zeppelin sighted. An abortive search by flying-boats. 
Lieutenant S. D. CuUey flies off the lighter. He destroys the Z.55 
in flames. The missing motor-boats. How disaster overcame them. 
A strange fight. 

An attempt to bring the German seaplanes to action. Why it failed. 

Air warfare in the southern part of the North Sea. Flanders I, 
Many encounters. 'Unwarlike' operations. 

^he Belgian Coast and Flanders . . . p. 380 

Changes in the Dover-Dunkirk air command. Policy of the Air Coun- 
cil. Proposal to organize a northern bombing force to attack German 
naval targets. Why it did not come into being. 


The German offensive in March and April 191 8 entails a drain on 
Dunkirk aircraft. Help expected from the United States naval 
authorities. Delays. The American Northern Bombing Group begins 
operations, 14th October 191 8. 

Dunkirk squadrons under naval control, April 191 8. Naval attempts 
to block the entrance to the canal at Zeebrugge and to Ostend har- 
bour. Workof aircraft in co-operation. Dunkirk air strength reduced. 
Need for concentrated bombing attacks on shipping crowded at 
Bruges. An opportunity missed. Admiral Keyes complains. Com- 

The bombing of Varssenaere aerodrome. Great damage inflicted. 

CHAPTER XI. Prelude to Victory . pp. 397-436 

The Battle of the Aisne, igi8 . . .p. 397 

Exhausted British divisions moved to quiet sector of French line. May 
1918. They are involved in the German Aisne offensive. Why the 
enemy attack achieved surprise. Work of No. 52 Squadron. Tell-tale 
dust-clouds. Complacency and detection. 

T^he Battle of the Matz . . . • p- 400 

General Foch expects new German attack on Montdidier-Noyon 
front. He asks for British squadrons. The IX Brigade moves south. 
The French Jir Division. A true strategic reserve. French orders 
for the employment of the IX Brigade squadrons. The German 
offensive, 9th June. Work of the British squadrons. End of the 

A memorandum by Major-General J. M. Salmond. An appreciation 
of the military situation by General Foch, Plans for air reconnais- 
sances. The IX Brigade squadrons return to the British area. 

The bombing of railway communications. Memoranda of the 
Inter-Allied Transportation Council. The proposals of General 
Plumer. A scheme for bombing to hinder an enemy concentration 
on the line La Bassee-Ypres. Bombing results. 

The Second Battle of the Marne . . . p. 412 

Foch expects a German attack in Champagne. The squadrons of 
the IX Brigade move back to the French front. Movements of 
British divisions. No. 82 Squadron accompanies them. The German 
attack, 14th July. The IX Brigade and the French Jir Division in 

General Foch launches a counter-offensive. The turn of the tide. 

Minor Operations . . . . . p. 415 

General Foch suggests minor British attacks to pin down German 
reserves. The Hamel attack by the Fourth Army. Night-flying to 
overpower the noise of assembling tanks. 
2504.6 ^ 


Work of the squadrons in the attack. No. 9 Squadron and the 
dropping of ammunition. 

Plans for resuming the offensive. Freeing Amiens and the Paris- 
Amiens railway. General Ravvlinson told to go ahead. General Foch 
asks Sir Douglas Haig to take control of the battle. 

German Night Bombing . . . . p. 419 

The German advance in March and April 191 8 compresses the British 
lines of communications areas. One lateral railway line. 

Importance of the railway bridge over the Canche estuary at 
Etaples. Other important bridges. British action to strengthen the 
bridges and to provide alternative arrangements. 

Bombing attacks on the fitaples bridge. Severe casualties in hospital 

Warning arrangements on the Nord railway system. Importance 
of warning system in general. 

Bombing attacks on Ordnance Depots. No. 12 (Blarges) and No. 
20 (Saigneville) severely damaged. 69 million rounds of S.A.A. 
destroyed. Total destruction 12,500 tons of ammunition. 

Comments on bombing policy. 

A night-fighter squadron for France. Searchlights, guns, and aero- 
planes in co-ordination. Record of No. 151 Squadron. 

A German bombing success of major mihtary importance. No. 2 
Base Mechanical Transport Depot in flames. 'All our eggs in one 
basket.' Monetary damage nearly as great as caused by all the aero- 
plane raids on Great Britain. Effect on transport position on Western 
front. And on Macedonian front. 

The vulnerabihty of targets. 

Death of Major J. T. B. McCudden and of Major Edward Mannock. 

Air Preparations for the Battle of Amiens . p. 433 

Methods to obtain surprise. Proposals for the employment of the 
Royal Air Force. British, French, and German air strengths for the 
opening of the battle. 

CHAPTER XII. The Amiens Offensive . pp. 437-68 

The 8th of August. Mist. Exceptional targets for low-flying attack. 
Samples of the air work. Laying smoke screens from the air. 

Roads crowded with transport and troops. Importance of the 
Somme bridges. Bombing concentrated against the bridges. German 
fighters protect the bridges. A tense conflict. 'Terrible losses' of the 
Richthofen squadron. The squadron withdrawn from the battle. 

The offensive and the defensive policies in the air. The B.M.W . 
engine. Importance of technical superiority. 

Air attacks on the bridges continue by night and day. What 


A change in bombing tactics. End of the attacks. Bombing rail- 
way communications. The D.H.4 and D.H.9, a comparison. 

^he Bombing of the Somme Bridges: a Com- 
mentary . . . . • P- 454 

A summary of the battle. The arrival of German reinforcing divisions. 
Was the bombing policy well founded ? 

^ome Lessons of the Battle . . . • P» 463 

A memorandum by the Fourth Army Commander. When low-flying 
attacks were of value. Lessons of air co-operation with tank units. 
And of Contact Patrol work. 

T^he French Air Service , , . • ?• 467 

Bombing targets allotted to the French Jir Division. 

CHAPTER XIII. The Battle of Bapaume pp. 469-509 

Sir Douglas Haig's plans for a continuation of the offensive between 
the Somme and the Scarpe, Marshal Foch defers to the views of Sir 
Douglas Haig. 

A preliminary operation. Squadron movements for the attack. Ill 
Brigade operation orders. 

The preliminary battle opens, 21st August. Mist and rain. Air 
co-operation being late. Work of No. 73 Squadron against anti- 
tank guns. 

Night bombing. 

Day bombing attacks on railways, 22nd August. 

The main offensive, 23rd August. 

Sir Douglas Haig's telegram revealing a new outlook on the war in 
the west. 

A new organization in connexion with low-flying attacks. Wireless 
Central Information Bureau. 

The bombing of railway junctions. Helping the tanks. 

Night bombing by German pilots. Destruction on the aerodrome 
at Bertangles. No. 48 Squadron withdrawn from the line to be re- 

German aerodromes bombed. Adventures of corps squadron pilots 
and observers. No. 17 American Squadron. 

The Battle of the Scarpe . . . .p. 484 

An extension of the general battle. Movements of air squadrons. Air 
Plans. Co-ordinating the activities of the low-flying squadrons. Bad 
weather. Air work in the battle. 

Statistics for British and French air services, March to October. 


^he Drocourt-Queant Switch . . • P* 49^ 

First and Third Armies attack astride the Arras-Cambrai road. Duties 
of the air squadrons. 

The Attack . . . . . .p. 495 

5 a.m. 2nd September. Success. Work of the corps squadrons. 
Valuable air reports. Combats. The German infantry fall back. 

A slackening of activity. General comments on the air work in the 

The Battle of Havrincourt and Efehy . . p. 504 

Preliminary operations. Destroying kite balloons. The attack 
succeeds. Night bombing. No. 151 Squadron. A memorandum on 
the tactical employment of fighter aeroplanes. German plan for in- 
cendiary bomb attacks on Paris and London. Marshal Foch asks for 
counter-bombing help from the Royal Air Force. Attacks on German 

CHAPTER XIV. Victory ... pp. 510-58 
Breaking the Hindenhurg Line . . . p. 510 

The general position. A final effort to end the war. Plans of Marshal 
Foch. The Hindenburg defence system. 
Air plans and concentration. 

Low-flying Attacks . . . . . p. 516 

Schemes for the employment of low-flying aircraft. 

Offensive Patrols . . . . . p. 517 

Patrol orders. 

The Head-quarters IX Brigade . . . p. 518 

Bombing and reconnaissance orders. 

The Battle of the Canal du Nord . . . p. 518 

The attack opens, 27th September. Success. Reporting the advance 
from the air. The low-flying attacks. Putting a gun out of action. A 
trophy for Cranwell. 

The Capure of the Hindenhurg Line , . p. 523 

The corps engaged. Detailed knowledge of the enemy defence system. 

Scheme of Air Co-operation . . . • P- SH 

Air Plans. 

The Attack . . . . . • P- 5^6 

Key of the enemy positions. Brilliant action of the 46th (North 


Midland) Division. American troops advance too far. Many cut off. 
Confusion. Need for air reconnaissances. Mist and the fog of vi^ar. 
Laying smoke screens from the air. Attacking kite balloons. 

^he Battle in Flanders . . . • P- 531 

His Majesty the King of the Belgians. Towards Ghent. Naval air 
help for the Belgians. The II Brigade. Low-flying casualties. Deliver- 
ing rations by air. Bombing. Damage at Lichtervelde sidings. 

^he Second Battle of Le Cateau . . • P- 535 

250 miles ofbattle on Western front. Climax approaching. Remainder 
of Hindenburg system captured. Along the Selle river. 

Flanders . . . . . . • P- 539 

Offensive in Flanders resumed, 14th October. Advance to the Dutch 
frontier. Low-flying attacks. The weather helps the retreating 
Germans. A tribute to the Royal Air Force by H.M. the King of 
the Belgians. 

^he Selle River . . . . . • P- 54i 

Selle positions captured. Air attacks. Two V.C. awards. Attacking 
the lines of communication. The bottle-neck through Namur and 
Liege. German pilots fight hard to hinder the bombing attacks. 

Comparisons between the D.H.9 and the D.H.9a as bombers. In- 
ferior equipment expensive and dependent upon chance. Intense air 
fighting, 30th October. Eightieth Wing and attacks on German aero- 

The final phase. 

A summary and comment. The offensive and defensive policies in 
the air. 


INDEX pp. 559-83 



I. Memorandum on the organization of the Air Services, 
by Lieutenant-General Sir David Henderson, July 

1917 I 

II. Air Organization. Second Report ofthe Prime Minister's 
Committee on Air Organization and Home Defence 
against Air Raids, dated 17th August 191 7 (Smuts's 
Report) ...... 8 

III. Sir Douglas Haig's views on a separate Air Service, 

15th September 1917 . . . .14 

IV. 'Munitions PossibiHties of 191 8.' Extract from a paper 

dated 21st October 191 7 by Mr. Winston Churchill, 
Minister of Munitions . . . .18 

V. The Bombing of Germany. Copy of a memorandum 
handed by Major-General H. M. Trenchard to the 
Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George, January 191 8 . 22 

VI. Memorandum on Bombing Operations. Forwarded by 
C.I.G.S., War Office, to General Sir Henry Wilson, 
British Military Representative, Supreme War 
Council, 17th January 191 8 . . .24 

VII. Memorandum by Sir William Weir, Secretary of State 
for the Royal Air Force, on the responsibility and 
conduct ofthe Air Ministry, May 1918 . . 26 

VIII. Memorandum by Marshal Foch on the subject of an 

Independent Air Force, 14th September 1918 . 29 

IX. Joint Note No. 35. 'Bombing Air Force.' Addressed 
to the Supreme War Council by the Military Repre- 
sentatives . . . . . .30 

X. The Bombardment ofthe Interior of Germany. Memo- 
randum by Marshal Foch, based on Joint Note 
No. 35 . . . . . .31 

XI. Heads of Agreement as to the constitution of the Inter- 
Allied Independent Air Force. An agreement reached 
between the British and French Governments and 
transmitted, through the Supreme War Council, to 
the American and ItaHan Governments for approval 41 

XII. Statistics of work of squadrons of the Independent 
Force, including wastage. June-November 191 8 

Facing p. 42 

XIII. Industrial Targets bombed by squadrons of the 41st 
Wing and the Independent Force. October 1917- 
November 1918 . . . . '4^ 


XIV. Volklingen Steel Works. Analysis of Damage caused by 

Air Raids in 1916, 1917, and 1918 . . • ^5 

XV. State of Independent Force, Royal Air Force . . 87 

XVI. Organization of Royal Air Force, Middle East, 30th 

September 191 8 .... Facing p. SS 

XVII. Summary of Anti-Submarine Air Patrols from ist May 

to I2tli November 1918. (Home Waters) . Facing p. 88 

XVIII. Comparison of Anti-Submarine Flying Operations be- 
tween Groups Nos. 9, 10, and 18. From ist July to 
30th September 191 8 . . . .88 

XIX. A short review of the situation in the air on the Western 
front and a consideration of the part to be played 
by the American aviation. Memorandum by Head- 
quarters, R.F.C., France, December 1917 . . 89 

XX. Fighting in the Air: Memorandum issued by British 

G.H.Q., France, February 191 8 . . • 9^ 

XXI. Bombing Operations. Memorandum submitted to 
G.H.Q., by Major-General J. M. Salmond, G.O.C., 
Royal Air Force, France: June 191 8 . .110 

XXII. Protection against Enemy Aeroplanes. Translation 

from a German document, July 191 8 . . 113 

XXIII. Methods of Bombing. Report from the Experimental 

Station, Orfordness: October 1918 . . .114 

XXIV. Order of Battle of the Royal Air Force, France, on 8th 

August 1918 . . . . .116 

XXV. The Battle of Amiens. Memorandum by G.O.C. V. 

Brigade, Royal Air Force. 14th August 1918 . 123 

XXVI. Strength of the Royal Air Force, Western front, in- 
cluding Independent Force and 5th Group, nth 
November 1918 . . . . .125 

XXVII. Types of Aircraft, 1914-18: Technical Data; Table A, 
Aeroplanes Table B, Seaplanes and Ship Aeroplanes 

Facing p. 130 

XXVIII. List of Squadrons, Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air 

Force, which served on the Western front, 1914-18. 130 

XXIX. List of Naval Squadrons which served with the Royal 
Flying Corps and Royal Air Force on the Western 
front, 1914-18 ..... 142 

XXX, Location of R.A.F. units. Western front, nth Novem- 
ber 1918 ...... 144 



XXXI. British Aircraft produced and Labour employed, 
August 1 914 to November 191 8. (Figures for 
Germany, France, Italy, and America given, where 
available, for comparison) . . . .154 

XXXII. Price list of various British war-time airframes and 

engines ...... 155 

XXXIII. Firms and Labour employed on British aircraft produc- 

tion (excluding airships). Comparative detailed state- 
ment for the years 1916, 1917, and 1918 . . 158 

XXXIV. British naval airships built 1914-18 . . . 159 

XXXV. Strength of British air personnel August 1914 and 

November 191 8 . . . . . 160 

XXXVI. Total casualties, all causes, to air service personnel, 

British and German, 1914-18 . . . 160 

XXXVII. Comparison, by months, of British flying casualties 
(killed and missing) and hours flown on the Western 
front, July 1916 to July 1918 . . .161 

XXXVIII. Deliveries of anti-aircraft guns and ammunition (ex- 
cluding naval) 1916 to 1918 . Facing p. 162 

XXXIX. Number of British anti-aircraft guns on the Western 
front, including Independent Force, July and 
November 1918 ..... 162 

XL. Strength of Allied Aircraft on all fronts: June 1918 

Facing p. 162 

Xlil. Disposition of aircraft and engines on charge of the 
Royal Air Force at 31st October 1918. Table A, 
Aeroplanes and Seaplanes (Airframes). Table B, 
Engines ..... Facing -p. 162 

XLII. Length of front held by British in France, various dates, 

1917 and 1918 . . . . .162 

XLIII. Hostile Bombing Activity on British front in France, 

May to October 191 8 . . . . 163 

XLIV. Summary Statistics of German air raids on Great 

Britain, 1914-18 ..... 164 

XLV. Anti-Aircraft Defences in Great Britain. Schedule of 
types, disposition, and strengths of aircraft, guns, 
height-finders, searchlights, and sound-locators, and 
strength of personnel, I oth June 1 91 8 . .165 

XLVI. Strength in personnel of Royal Air Force in various 

theatres of war at 31st October 1918 . . 172 












Area of Operations of the Independent Force, 191 8 

Palestine ....... 

Palestine and Syria ..... 

The envelopment of the Turkish Seventh and Eighth 
Armies ....... 

Megiddo, 1918. Situation at Zero Hour, 19th Sept 

Megiddo, 1918. Situation at 12 m.n. I9th/20th Sept 

Theatre of Operations in Trans- Jordan . 

The Operations of 'Dunsterforce', 191 8 

Mesopotamia ...... 

Italian Front, 191 8 

Macedonia ....... 

Situation, Sea to Vardar, 15th July 1918 

Allied Offensive of September 1918: Plan of Break 
through (Macedonia) ..... 

The Battle of Dojran. i8th September 1918 . 

Mediterranean Sea ..... 

Italian Operations in Albania, 191 8 

Sphere of Naval Air Operations in Home Waters, 19 

The German Offensive in Champagne, 1918 

British Offensive, South of Lens, August-November 

Battle of the Canal du Nord, 1918 

Battles of the Hindenburg Line, 1918 

British battles during 1918 (8th August to llth 
November) ...... 

23. Railway Map of Western theatre of War . 

Facing p. 152 








at end {after index) 


The year 1 9 1 7 was a year of sombre texture. The collapse 
of the Nivelle campaign, so hopefully planned, which led 
to mutinies in the French army, the costly British offen- 
sives on the Western front which brought no adequate 
compensating victories, the overrunning of Romania 
soon after she had come into the war, the defection of 
Russia, the depredations of the U-boats, and the aero- 
plane attacks, by day and by night, on London and the 
southern counties, all helped towards a feeling of depres- 
sion. It is true that the entry of America into the war 
meant that the background was shot through with hope, 
and it is true, also, that there was evidence that Austria 
was weakening, but America seemed a long way away and 
was wholly unprepared, while there was small chance that 
Germany would allow Austria, even if she so wished, to 
make a separate peace. 

There were members of the British Government who 
found it difficult to believe, especially after the Allied 
Somme offensive in 1916, that victory could be achieved 
through battering at the immensely strong trench systems 
on the Western front. They were troubled also by the 
carnage which attacks on these systems entailed. They 
turned their eyes away from France and searched the 
battle-fields of the world, seeking to find some place where 
defence was not predominant, some theatre of war where 
there were weaknesses through which the structure of the 
central powers might be shattered. 

It was perhaps natural that as air warfare developed, 
and particularly after the entry of the United States into 
the war — a happening which bred visions of fleets of 
aeroplanes rising from the American factories — some 
people should turn to the skies and wonder whether 
a large-scale and sustained air offensive might force the 
enemy to sue for peace. The German aeroplane attacks 
on southern England, more especially the first daylight 
attack on London on the 13th of June 1917, seemed to con- 
firm that this was the way. The casualties resulting from 

2504.6 -a 


the daylight raid on the capital exceeded those inflicted 
in the County of London area by all of the Zeppelin 
attacks which had been made up to that time. This was 
due in part to chance, as well as to the fact that people 
had been taken by surprise in the streets at a busy hour 
of the day; but when all allowances had been made it still 
seemed that aeroplane bombing, on a large scale, was a 
menace of indefinite possibilities. At a Cabinet meeting, 
held a few hours after the raid. Sir William Robertson, 
the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, had urged that 
the numbers of British aeroplanes should be greatly in- 
creased, even though this could be done only at the ex- 
pense of other weapons. The Cabinet came to the same 
conclusion and requested the Air Board to consult with 
the Ministry of Munitions, the War Office, and with other 
Departments concerned, and to submit a scheme for 

After various memoranda had been prepared, a meeting 
took place at the War Office on the 2ist of June 191 7, and 
it was decided to recommend an increase in the service 
squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps from 108 to 200. 
The proposal received Cabinet approval on the 2nd of July, 
when it was also decided that there should be a correspond- 
ing increase in the strength of the Royal Naval Air Service. 

The intention was that the majority of the additional 
squadrons should be equipped for bombing. ^ Sir Douglas 
Haig was informed of the War Cabinet decision on the 1 3 th 
of July in order that he might keep in mind the question 
of aerodrome accommodation. The British Commander- 
in-Chief in France found it difficult to understand the 
policy of the Government. In his reply to the War Office 
he pointed out that he had been given no reasons why it 
had been found necessary to increase the Royal Flying 
Corps, and he said that it did not appear that the decision 
had been based upon the requirements of the British 
armies in France. In his view the proposed additional 
bombing squadrons were of secondary importance, and 
their organization should not be allowed to prejudice the 

^ The proposed distribution was : France and Italy, 86 squadrons ; other 
theatres of war, 40; long-distance bombing squadrons, 40; reserve, 34. 


maintenance in France of the seventy-six fighting, recon- 
naissance, and night flying, squadrons which had been 
sanctioned for service on the Western front. A War Office 
letter on the 2nd of August assured Sir Douglas Haig 
that these squadrons would be given precedence, and he 
was asked, at the same time, to say what he thought about 
the further development of offensive tactics, such as attacks 
against troops on the ground by large numbers of aero- 

Sir Douglas Haig replied that he did not consider any- 
thing was to be gained by diverting resources to build 
aeroplanes for low-flying attacks, which could be classified 
as of secondary importance. After provision had been 
made for the seventy-six squadrons already sanctioned, 
the requirement next in urgency was the provision of 
ten bombing squadrons for offensive operations against 
German aerodromes. *In this way alone', he said, 'it is 
'possible to compel the enemy to fight on his side of the 
'line at a distance from the battle front.' He asked to be 
informed of the exact nature of the bombing operations 
which it was proposed that the new striking force should 

He was again reassured that the ten bombing squadrons 
would be given precedence together with the seventy-six 
squadrons of the existing programme. He was told, how- 
ever, that no detailed plans had been prepared for the 
employment of the bombing squadrons in excess of the 
requirements of the armies, 'firstly because such plans 
will be dependent to some extent on the military situation 
at the time when the squadrons become available, and 
secondly because the War Cabinet are now considering 
the establishment of a separate Department of State to 
control and administer the Air Services, and in the event 
of such a Department being formed, the strategical 
disposition and the employment of such surplus force 
may be among its functions.' Finally, the War Office 
requested Sir Douglas Haig to take measures to provide 
for the eventual accommodation of forty squadrons, 
additional to the eighty-six already agreed to, and 
suggested that these squadrons should be arranged in 


groups of from ten to fifteen, in areas from twenty to forty 
miles behind the trench lines. 

Meanwhile, as indicated in the above reply to Sir 
Douglas Haig, there had been happenings at home which 
had profoundly affected air policy. On the 7th of July, 
five days after the Government had decided upon the 
large-scale expansion of the air services, the German 
bombing squadron had made its second daylight attack 
on London, and the problems of air defence in particular, 
and of the organization of the air services in general, had 
formed a subject for anxious discussion at War Cabinet 
meetings held on days subsequent to the raid.^ 

We may leave the War Cabinet to their discussions, for 
the moment, and briefly recapitulate the attempts which 
had been made, up to that time, to establish some body 
which would be able to co-ordinate matters affecting the 
naval and military air services. It will be recalled that 
the first effort of the kind in the war, the establishment 
of a Joint War Air Committee in February 191 6, under 
the chairmanship of Lord Derby, had proved a failure. ^ 
The committee had been set up as permanent, but it had 
lasted no longer than two months, chiefly because it had 
lacked executive authority. In his letter of resignation to 
the Prime Minister, Lord Derby had said that the two air 
services could not be brought closer together unless they 
were amalgamated, but although he believed that this was 
the inevitable solution he thought the change too difficult 
to make in time of war. 'A step tow^ards amalgamation', 
he had concluded, ^might be made by giving wider powers 
'to a reconstituted committee presided over by a chairman 
'having direct access to the War Committee. 3 But the 
'subject is so complex that I hesitate to make any recom- 
'mendations as to what these wider powers should be, in 
'so much as every proposal which would take control of 
'the Wings from the Admiralty and War Office respec- 
'tively, would inevitably bring in its train objections to 
*which I cannot suggest answers.' 

1 See Vol. V, pp. 38-45; 

2 See Vol. Ill, Chapter IV. 

2 Predecessor of the War Cabinet. 


The wider powers given to the Air Board, the body 
which succeeded Lord Derby's committee, have aheady 
been set out.^ Once again, however, executive authority 
was withheld from the Board. It was 'free to discuss 
matters of general policy in relation to the air', and, if 
the Admiralty or the War Office declined to act upon its 
recommendations, the President of the Board might 'refer 
the question to the War Committee'. The expert mem- 
bers of the Board, however, were representatives of the 
Admiralty and of the War Office, and mere freedom to dis- 
cuss tended to aggravate rather than eliminate differences 
of view between the two departments. Lord Curzon, the 
President of the Board, in a report to the Government, 
dated August 1916, stated that the definition of the powers 
of the Board would have been more precise had it not been 
for objections raised by the Admiralty, but he pointed out 
that statements had been made in Parliament, when the 
Air Board was formed, which left no doubt that the Board 
was not to be so restricted as the somewhat vague outline of 
its duties might imply. Mr. H. J. Tennant, Under Secretary 
of State for War, had said in the House of Commons in 
May 1916: 'It will charge itself with the larger and wider 
'questions of thinking out the possibility of developing its 
'own body possibly with a regular Department under it — 
'what is called an Air Ministry.' Mr. Bonar Law, speak- 
ing for the Government, had been more specific, and had 
stated that the new body would grow until it had allocated 
to it all the duties of an Air Ministry. 

The first Air Board, however, never grew up, whatever 
may have been the original intentions of the Government. 
Because it possessed no executive functions it was power- 
less to resolve difficulties as and when they arose. Indeed, 
the troubles which continued to hamper the administra- 
tion and growth of the air services may be largely ascribed 
to the unwillingness of the Government to pay attention 
to the reasons which caused the failure of Lord Derby's 
committee. That such a body of experienced administra- 
tors, appointed to a so-called permanent committee, should 
have concluded within a few weeks that their task was a 
^ Vol. Ill, pp. 271-2. 


hopeless one might have been expected to lead to drastic 
action. Although the announcements made in the House 
of Commons seemed to imply that such action had been, 
or would be, taken, the first Air Board was little more 
effective than the short-lived Joint War Air Committee. 
It did useful work, in minor ways, but it could initiate 
little, and precious months were wasted during which 
plans, backed by adequate authority, might have been laid 
far ahead. 

The second, or Cowdray, Air Board had been made 
definitely responsible for the design of aeroplanes and sea- 
planes, for the numbers to be ordered, and for their alloca- 
tion to the two air services. ^ The Board worked with great 
energy, took measures which led to an encouraging expan- 
sion in production, and was able to frame schedules of out- 
put which, on paper, exceeded anticipation. By the early 
summer of 191 7 Lord Cowdray, the President, looking at 
his paper schedules, could see a surplus of aircraft above 
what would be required to meet the essential needs of the 
navy and of the army. He took the view that this Surplus 
Aircraft Fleet, as he called it, should constitute a bombing 
force which might be put to effective use only if the Air 
Board possessed a war staff. Sections 2 and 3 of the New 
Ministries and Secretaries Act, 1916, under which the 
Board had been constituted, read: 

'2. The Board shall be free to discuss matters of policy 
*in relation to the air and to make recommendations to 
'the Admiralty and War Office thereon. 

'3. The Admiralty and War Office will concert their 
'respective aerial policies in consultation with the Air 

So far, then, as policy was concerned, the second Air 
Board was in no stronger position than the first. It was 
charged with a vague responsibility, but it could do no 
more than talk or recommend. At a meeting of the Board 
held on the nth of July 191 7 Lord Cowdray referred to 
the daylight raid on London on the previous Saturday, and 

^ The Ministry of Munitions was responsible for production, for inspec- 
tion during manufacture, and for handing the aircraft to the services in 
accordance with the allotments made by the Air Board. 


said there was no doubt that the popular outcry about the 
air pohcy of the Government would become acute. Air 
policy was not a question that could be settled at occasional 
conferences, and the Board could not discharge the duties 
laid upon it under Sections 2 and 3 of its charter unless 
it was given a special staff. The discussion which followed 
the President's opening remarks illuminated the delicate 
position of the Board in this matter. It was bluntly stated 
by some of the members that if the Board took upon itself 
to say what were the uses to which aeroplanes or seaplanes 
should be put, the War Office and the Admiralty would 
resent and resist such intervention. It was decided that 
the members of the Board should think the question over 
with a view to a special discussion at an early date. 

Unknown to the Board, however, the matter was, at 
that moment, being taken out of its hands. The War 
Cabinet, meeting elsewhere on the same day, decided to 
set up a committee, consisting of the Prime Minister and 
Lieutenant-General J. C. Smuts, to examine: 

(i) the defence arrangements for Home Defence against 
air raids^ and 

(ii) the air organization generally and the direction of 
aerial operations. 

Lord Cowdray, unaware of this action of the Govern- 
ment, proceeded with his plans for making the Air Board 
effective to formulate policy. He appeared at a meeting 
of the Board on the i6th of July with a memorandum, 
the main point in which was a plea for the allocation 
to the Board of an air staff. He told the members, how- 
ever, that after he had written the memorandum he had 
received an extract from the minutes of the War Cabinet 
for the nth of July informing him, for the first time, of 
the decision to set up a special committee. He had seen 
the Prime Minister that morning and had been told that 
Mr. Lloyd George had only lent his name to the Com- 
mittee, and that the whole matter would be dealt with 
by Lieutenant-General Smuts. It was clear that the 
General was deahng with a subject which fell within the 

^ The report and the decisions upon the subject of home defence have 
been dealt with in Vol. V, pp. 41-4. 


province of the Board, and the President said he had 
arranged to see him for a discussion that afternoon. At 
a meeting of the Board next day Lord Cowdray told the 
members about the interview. The War Cabinet, he had 
been given to understand, v^as of the opinion that the 
pov^ers of the Air Board must be extended to cover 
matters of air pohcy. He had explained that this was a 
view held hy his colleagues on the Board, but that he 
himself had, hitherto, contended that the existing powers 
of the Board were sufficient. Lord Cowdray stated that 
his views had changed after talking the subject over with 
General Smuts, and that he had come to the conclusion 
that the Board should be permanently established with 
enlarged powers. 

In a memorandum to Lieutenant-General Smuts on 
the 28th of July he set out his considered views. After 
giving the duties of the Air Board, as outlined in its 
charter, he proceeded: 'It is, I believe I may say, almost 
universally and fully recognized that an independent air 
service will unquestionably be demanded as soon as ever 
it is possible for one to be formed. But when drawing up 
the draft charter, for the approval of the Cabinet ... I 
considered that during the war the Board should confine 
itself to supplying the Navy and the Army with aircraft 
and to controlling the distribution between the two ser- 
vices of the aircraft manufactured. I felt that during the 
war to attempt to create an independent aerial service 
controlled by the Air Board was not wise or practical and 
especially so owing to the opposition of the Admiralty 
to any such scheme. The many problems which will have 
to be thrashed out and settled between the Services con- 
cerned, before the Independent Air Service can become 
effective, point to the necessity of their discussion being 
begun forthwith, so that the Air Board may be fully 
prepared to take over the administration of the Indepen- 
dent Air Service immediately the war is finished. ... I am 
driven to request that the Air Board should now be turned 
into a permanent Ministry, presumably by Act of Parlia- 
ment, so as to place it into a position to secure a war staff 
of recognized experts. This staff would recommend to 


'the Board the PoHcy that ought to be followed. It would 
'also be studying and preparing the King's Regulations, 
Ta^ Warrant, etc., so that the machinery required to 
'constitute the Air Service could be set in motion on 
'receipt of instructions to do so. . . . It appears to me be- 
'yond question that during the war the administration 
'of the Naval and Military Air Services as they at present 
'exist, or will exist when their imperative needs are satis- 
'fied, should not be changed. . . .' 

It is clear that Lord Cowdray had in mind a body 
little different from the existing Air Board. He wanted 
a permanent staff, but chiefly to work out the details for 
a possible change after the war. Although such a staff 
might guide the Board on matters of policy, it is difficult 
to see how that would have improved the position so long 
as the navy and the army were free to follow their own air 
policies. There would have been three policies instead of 
one. Lord Cowdray recognized this difficulty when he 
wrote, in his memorandum, about the Surplus Aircraft 
Fleet. 'Which Ministry should administer it', he said, 
should be determined by the Cabinet after hearing the 
views of the War Staffs of the Army and Navy and Air 
Board. The policy advocated by the Air Board would 
be the result of special study by air experts free from 
distractions arising from administrative work and, there- 
fore, it should be worthy of serious consideration. Whilst 
it appears to me, but I have not discussed the subject with 
the two services, that by agreement with them it should 
be possible for the Surplus Aircraft Fleet to be placed 
directly under the Air Board without any serious disloca- 
tion of existing arrangements, I cannot, with my present 
knowledge, recommend this. . . .' 

It cannot be said that action based on Lord Cow- 
dray's memorandum would have gone much of the way 
to settle the existing difficulties. Lieutenant-General Sir 
David Henderson, the military member of the Air Board, 
went much farther. In a memorandum,^ submitted to 
Lieutenant-General Smuts on the 19th of July, he sur- 
veyed the whole problem with some detachment before 

^ Appendix I. 


giving his personal views. He made it clear that he thought 
the two services should be combined 'under the control 
'of a Ministr)^ with full administrative and executive 
'powers'. He believed that there would be temporary loss 
of efficiency, but that if the Government estimated that 
the war would last until June 191 8 the change should be 
made. 'To minimize this loss of efficiency', he said, 'it 
would be advisable to draw up a complete scheme for the 
Air organization, and to take advice on the legal and ad- 
ministrative questions . . . before announcing any change 
of policy, and after the announcement of the policy it 
would be necessary to disregard entirely amateur advice 
and suggestions, and to leave the Air Board and the 
Services to work out their own salvation as best they 

Lieutenant-General Jan Christian Smuts gave a ready 
ear and an impartial study to all aspects of the problem. 
His record and personality were factors of importance. 
He had come to England from German East Africa, where 
he had directed the campaign against Lettow-Vorbeck's 
forces, in March 1917 to attend an Imperial Conference, 
and he had subsequently been invited by Mr. Lloyd 
George to join the War Cabinet. This invitation he 
had accepted on the understanding that he would be 
concerned with military matters and would not be called 
upon to take any part in political questions. When the 
first daylight attack on London began Lieutenant-General 
Smuts was in his rooms at the Savoy Hotel, and he was a 
spectator of the subsequent happenings in the air on that 
Wednesday morning. When the attack had ended he made 
a tour of the places where bombs had fallen, and although 
he found that the damage was comparatively small, he was 
impressed by the obvious effect of the raid on the morale of 
the people. At War Cabinet meetings held after the attack 
Sir William Robertson, speaking for the General Staff, was 
a little impatient about the attention given to the feelings 
of the population of London. Lieutenant-General Smuts 
respected the views of the Chief of the Imperial General 
Staff, which were natural from the soldier's point of view, 
but he had himself seen enough to realize that the popula- 


tion had been shaken, and this psychological factor was of 
a kind which a commander must take into account. 

Lieutenant-General Smuts knew that there had been con- 
troversy about the air services, some of it bitter, and that 
most of those who were prominent in political or service 
life had taken sides, or had adopted a definite attitude. 
When he was asked by Mr. Lloyd George to report 
upon the whole air problem he had been reluctant to do 
so because of its political aspects, but he was overborne 
when the Prime Minister said he would cover the political 
side of the matter by calling himself chairman of the 
committee. Mr. Lloyd George, no doubt, realized that 
the reluctance of Lieutenant-General Smuts, and the 
reasons upon which it was founded, were assets of value 
in the discharge of a delicate task. Gifted with a 
searching and analytical mind. General Smuts stood de- 
tached from British internal affairs, political or service, 
and what he said and did commanded a wide respect. 
Those who came to confer with him were convinced that 
his one concern was to find an unprejudiced solution of 
the problem, and they believed that he would not make 
up his mind until after he had heard, and carefully 
weighed, every aspect. 

General Smuts presented his first report, on the sub- 
ject of the air defence of the London area, on the 19th 
of July. This report, which was approved, has been 
dealt with.^ His second report, with which we are 
here concerned, was placed before the War Cabinet on 
the 17th of August. It is the most important paper in 
the history of the creation of the Royal Air Force and is 
reprinted in full as Appendix II, but its main points may 
be summarized. The view was expressed that air develop- 
ments had been such that the time was approaching when 
aircraft would cease to be merely ancillary to naval and 
military operations, and would be used for independent 
operations. 'Nobody that witnessed the attack on London 
'on the 7th July could have any doubt on that point. . . . 
*As far as can at present be foreseen there is absolutely 
'no limit to the scale of its future independent war use. 
' Vol. V, pp. 41-4. 


'And the day may not be far off when aerial operations 
'with their devastation of enemy lands and destruction 
'of industrial and populous centres on a vast scale may 
'become the principal operations of war, to which the 
'older forms of military and naval operations may become 
'secondary and subordinate. . . .' The programmes of 
aircraft production, sanctioned by the War Cabinet, 
would, he said, result in a future surplus of aeroplanes 
after the requirements of the army and of the navy had 
been met, and the creation of an Air Staff to plan and 
direct independent operations was a matter of some 
urgency. Furthermore, the design of aircraft and engines 
for such operations must be settled in accordance with 
the policy which would direct their future strategic em- 
ployment, a fact which made urgent the need to form an 
Air Ministry. The report had something to say on the 
subject of man-power. The progressive exhaustion, which 
afflicted all the combatants, would, it was stated, deter- 
mine more and more the character of the war as one of 
arms and machinery rather than of men. 'The side that 
'commands industrial superiority and exploits its advan- 
'tages in that respect to the utmost ought in the long run 
'to win. Man-power in its war use will more and more 
'tend to become subsidiary and auxiliary to the full 
'development and use of mechanical power. . . .' The 
submarine had already shown what startling developments 
were possible in naval warfare. 'Aircraft is destined to 
'work an even more far-reaching change in land warfare. 
'But to secure the advantages of this new factor ... we 
'must create a new directing organization, a new Ministry 
'and Air Staff which could properly handle the instru- 
'ment of offence and equip it with the best brains at our 

The report recommended, therefore, that an Air Min- 
istry should be formed as soon as possible to control and 
administer all matters in connexion with air warfare of 
every kind, and that the new Ministry should proceed 
to work out the arrangements for the amalgamation of 
the two air services, and for the legal constitution and 
discipline of the new service. Meanwhile it was desirable 


that the change should not be pubHcly announced in 
advance in order to avoid offering the enemy any stimulus 
to corresponding efforts. 

On the 24th of August the War Cabinet met and de- 
cided to accept, in principle, the recommendation that a 
separate service for the air be formed. It was further 
decided that a committee, under Lieutenant-General 
Smuts, should be appointed to investigate the details of 
amalgamation, and to prepare the necessary draft legisla- 
tion for submission to Parliament.^ 

This body was known as the Air Organization Com- 
mittee, and on its work much of the shape and general 
architecture of the Royal Air Force depended. The 
moving spirit behind the activities of the committee was 
Sir David Henderson. Sub-committees, under his general 
supervision, settled questions of the composition of the 
Air Council and of the distribution of duties among its 
members, drafted a Bill for the constitution of the new 
Ministry, explored the multitudinous details connected 
with the amalgamation of the two services and with 
Discipline, the Pay Warrant, and King's Regulations. 
This was work for which the logical mind of Sir David 
Henderson and his practical experience well fitted him. 
Every member of the committee toiled at high pressure, 
but none more than Lieutenant-General Henderson, who 
held nothing back and whose energy burned like a flame 
when, as here, his heart and mind were engaged. 

While the air organization committee was dealing with 
the office work of amalgamation, there were misgivings 
about the whole policy, particularly at General Head- 
quarters in France. A copy of the report of Lieutenant- 
General Smuts had been forwarded by the War Office to 
Sir Douglas Haig for comment. ^ In the General Head- 

^ The members, additional to the Chairman, were Lord Cowdray, 
Major J. L. Baird, M.P., Lieutenant-General Sir David Henderson, 
Commodore G. M. Paine, and Lord Hugh Cecil. Major C. L. Storr and 
Sir Paul Harvey were joint secretaries. 

^ The Commander-in-Chief pencilled notes, on the copy which he used, 
as follows: He underlined, in the recommendation numbered (6), the 
words from time to time (1. i), and during the period of such attachment (1. 3), 
and added the comment, 'All boats are not under the Admiralty! We 


quarters' file in which the matter was discussed there are 
memoranda, unsigned, which set out reasons against the 
formation, at that time, of an Air Ministry. The con- 
tention on which the whole argument for a separate air 
service was based, it was said, was that the war could be 
won in the air as against on the ground, which was a 
mere assertion unsupported by facts. 'An Air Ministry 
Vith civilian head', it was stated, 'uncontrolled by any 
'outside naval and military opinion, exposed as it would 
'inevitably be to popular and factional clamour, would be 
'very liable to lose its sense of proportion and be drawn 
'towards the spectacular, such as bombing reprisals and 
'home defence, at the expense of providing the essential 
'means of co-operation with our naval and military forces.' 
In his reply^ to the War Office, however, sent on the 
15th of September 191 7, Sir Douglas Haig confined his 
examination of the subject to what was necessary to en- 
sure the efficiency of the air service under the new organiza- 
tion, 'the principle of the formation of a separate Air ser- 
'vice having already been approved by the War Cabinet.' 
He also remarked dryly that he had further limited his 
consideration of the matter 'to our requirements in this 
'war, the winning of which demands the concentration of 
'all our energies . . .' He had, he said, carefully studied the 
report, and he found that some of the views put forward 
about future possibilities went beyond anything justified 
by his experience. He thought that a full examination of 
the problems associated with long-distance bombing would 
show that the views expressed by the committee required 
considerable modification, and he desired to point out 
the 'grave danger of an Air Ministry, charged with such 
'powers as the Committee recommends, assuming control 
'with a belief in theories which are not in accordance with 
'practical experience'. After reviewing the difficulties 

have pontoons and Inland Water Transport barges, steamers, etc' Against 
the statement about the necessity for securing air predominance on a large 
scale, in paragraph 11, he underlined the words, having secured it in this 
war we should make every effort and sacrifice to maintain it for the future, 
and added, 'I agree'. 

^ Reprinted as Appendix III. 

igiy] PYRRHONISM 15 

associated with long-distance bombing from aerodromes 
in French territory, Sir Douglas Haig had much to say 
about the supply of aeroplanes and trained personnel. 
'After more than three years of war', he said, 'our 
'armies are still very far short of their requirements, and 
'my experience of repeated failure to fulfil promises as 
'regards provision makes me somewhat sceptical as to the 
'large surplus of machines and personnel on which the 
'Committee counts in . . . its report. . . . Nor is it clear 
'that the large provision necessary to replace wastage has 
'been taken into account. . . .' 

This letter from Sir Douglas Haig reached home at a 
time when the German air service had caused Whitehall 
to probe once again into air problems. At the beginning 
of September 191 7 the German bombing squadron had 
begun an intensive night-bombing campaign. After the 
attack on London of the 4th/5th of September the War 
Cabinet met and their discussion revealed a strong feeling 
for carrying the air war into Germany. Lieutenant- 
General Smuts was requested to investigate the recent 
German attacks, to report his views about the provision 
of protection for the civil population, and to submit 
proposals for bombing operations against Germany. His 
memorandum on the question of the German air raids 
was circulated to the Cabinet on the 6th of September.^ 
He proceeded, with characteristic thoroughness, to ex- 
plore the various aspects of the larger question of bombing 
Germany, and he soon came to the conclusion that we 
were backward in all our preparations. On the i8th of 
September he circulated a memorandum, to which he 
attached important statements by Sir William Weir on 
the supply position, by Sir David Henderson on the scale 
of the contemplated bombing offensive in the spring and 
summer of 191 8, and notes on Sir William Weir's memo- 
randum by Sir David Henderson, Commodore Godfrey 
Paine, and by Major-General W. S. Brancker.^ 

Sir William Weir, who was at the time the Controller 
of Aeronautical Supplies in the Ministry of Munitions, 
made it clear that the programme of aircraft expansion 

^ See Vol. V, pp. 64-5. ^ See also pp. 39-42. 


could not be realized unless the whole industrial organiza- 
tion was reviewed and the necessary priorities given to 
aircraft supplies. He pointed out that the problem could 
only be decided 'by a consideration of true war policy, the 
influence of aerial strategy, and a definite aerial plan of 
campaign. It is necessary to insist on this point as even 
now the aeronautical programme may be suffering in its 
character from an indefinite knowledge of actual aerial 
policy for next year. It is necessary also to reiterate the 
extreme urgency of an immediate settlement of this ques- 
tion, as any change in the existing programme for the 
spring of 191 8 can only be brought about with ample 
notice so that the manufacturing arrangements can be 
adjusted. . . .' Major-General Brancker stated that it 
was useless to accelerate the supply programme if other 
limiting factors were not similarly dealt with. There was 
a shortage of training-type aeroplanes, there was delay in 
providing aerodromes and buildings, and the recruitment 
of mechanics was proceeding at a slow pace. The Board 
of Agriculture was reluctant to allow arable land to be 
taken over for new aerodromes, but all suitable non-arable 
land had already been taken up. Major-General Brancker 
urged that the War Cabinet should say definitely that the 
Board of Agriculture must release 4,000 acres of arable 
land urgently required by the air services. Commodore 
Godfrey Paine added representations about an imperative 
need to increase the supply of pilots and mechanics. In 
his covering memorandum, Lieutenant-General Smuts 
pointed out that the whole question of air expansion was 
really one of fundamental war policy to be decided by the 
Cabinet after hearing the advice of their military experts.^ 
The various memoranda, together with Sir Douglas 
Haig's letter, were fully considered by the War Cabinet 
at a meeting on the 21st of September. It was decided 
that Sir John Hunter should be appointed to supervise 
the construction of new aerodromes and that 4,000 acres 
of arable land should be taken over for this purpose. 
On the broader questions it was clear, as Sir William 
Weir had said in his memorandum, that air expansion 

^ See pp. 40-1. 


depended upon priorities, a matter which intimately 
concerned the Admiralty and War Office. The Cabinet 
decided, therefore, that the subject must be considered 
further, and a strong committee, under Lieutenant- 
General Smuts, was appointed to report upon the whole 
situation, to make recommendations about priority, and 
to say fully what effects any priorities which might be 
granted would have upon the army and the navy. 

This committee, called the Aerial Operations Committee, 
began work immediately^. At their first meeting the 
members decided that they could do what they had been 
instructed to do only if they were constituted a standing 
committee with authority to settle all questions of priority, 
not alone for the air programme, but for all munitions 
programmes. A memorandum was accordingly drawn up 
by the chairman and was considered by the War Cabinet 
on the 8th of October. The proposals put forward were 
adopted, and the name of the committee was changed to 
War Priorities Committee, which was given powers to settle 
questions of priority in connexion with the production of 
all munitions of war. 

This was a revolutionary step, and it was a direct result 
of the difficulties associated with the problem of aircraft 
expansion. It may be noted that thereafter Lieutenant- 
General J. C. Smuts, in his capacity of chairman of the 
War Priorities Committee, was called upon to discharge 
some of the more important duties allocated by theorists 
to a Minister of Defence. Once again there was the asset 
of the prestige and authority which he enjoyed because 
of his aloofness from British internal service and political 
affairs. He sat in judgement on the claims for material 
which were put forward, and he made his allocations in 
accordance with his interpretation of the whole war 
policy of the Government. If the programmes submitted 
by the service departments were cut down there were 
seldom any murmurings. It was accepted that the demands 

^ Its members, additional to the Chairman, were: Sir Eric Geddes, 
First Lord of the Admiralty ; Lord Derby, Secretary of State for War ; 
Lord Cowdray, President of the Air Board ; and Mr. Winston Churchill, 
Minister of Munitions. Major C. L. Storr was secretary. 

2504.6 r 


received an impartial scrutiny, and that when modifica- 
tions were made it was because the industrial resources of 
the country, as conditioned by the war policy of the 
Government, did not permit of strict fulfilment. 

Meanwhile no public announcement had been made of 
the intention to form a separate air service, and because 
of the general ignorance of the Government's actions on 
the subject of air policy and expansion, there was con- 
siderable public criticism. At its meeting on the 2ist of 
September the War Cabinet had considered announcing to 
the Press the decision to form a separate air service, but 
had deferred the question. There were some, in close touch 
with the Government, who were beginning to despair 
about the formation of a unified air service. The ques- 
tion was again raised by Lieutenant-General Smuts at a 
Cabinet meeting on the 8th of October, at which Mr. 
Lloyd George said he had consulted Mr. Holt Thomas, 
who had had considerable experience in aeronautical mat- 
ters, and his opinion was that the time was not yet ripe 
for the formation of an Air Ministry, and that an announce- 
ment in the Press would therefore be premature. After 
much discussion the Cabinet decided to adjourn the de- 
bate to give opportunity for Lieutenant-General Smuts 
to look further into the matter. On the loth of October 
Admiral Mark Kerr^ was told by Lord Cowdray that it 
was almost certain no independent bombing force to at- 
tack Germany would be formed. The admiral had, after 
making a close study of the German air position, reached 
the conclusion that the Germans were giving priority to 
the building of aeroplanes, and that a large-scale bombing 
campaign against England must be anticipated. He there- 
fore addressed to Lord Cowdray a forceful memorandum 
pointing out ^the extraordinary danger of delay in forming 
'the Air Ministry and commencing on a proper Air 
Tolicy'. The memorandum was circulated among the 
members of the War Cabinet. 

^ Admiral Mark Kerr had returned to England from commanding the 
British Adriatic Squadron in August 191 7, and the Admiralty had placed 
his services at the disposal of the Air Board to assist in forming the new 
Air Ministry. 


At their meeting on the 15th of October the War 
Cabinet once more reviewed the position. The discussion 
revealed misgivings whether it would be possible to form 
an Air Ministry during the war without causing serious 
dislocation, and the War Cabinet decided to make a 
somewhat cautious announcement in Parliament that a 
Bill would be introduced to co-ordinate the air services 
'and provide for the eventual setting up of an Air Ministry'. 
It was further decided that an Air Policy Committee 
of the War Cabinet should be formed, under the chair- 
manship of Lieutenant-General Smuts, to advise the 
Cabinet pending the establishment of an Air Ministry. 
The members were the First Lord of the Admiralty, the 
Secretary of State for War, and the President of the Air 
Board. Various officers, including Major-General Tren- 
chard from France, were called into consultation by the 
committee from time to time. 

It will be observed that the War Cabinet decision referred 
to the 'eventual' formation of an Air Ministry, and it 
seems clear that the Air Policy Committee was set up for 
the reason that the Government were undecided whether 
the separate Ministry would be created during the war. 
Parliament, however, met on October the i6th, after 
the summer recess, and there seems little doubt that the 
Government were made aware of a determined feeling 
among the members of the House of Commons that no 
further procrastination would be tolerated. However that 
may be, when Mr. Bonar Law stood in the Commons on 
the 1 6th to make his eagerly awaited statement he irre- 
vocably committed the Government. 'A Bill', he said, 
'to constitute an Air Ministry has been prepared and will 
'shortly be introduced'. Disquiet, however, was not 
wholly dissipated as is clear from the contents of a memo- 
randum circulated to the members of the War Cabinet 
by Lord Milner^ on the 26th of October. He opened by 
saying that he thought the position with regard to future 
air policy was a long way from satisfactory, and he pointed 
to the need for an early discussion by the War Cabinet of 
the whole question. Such discussions as had taken place 
^ A member of the War Cabinet without portfolio. 


in the past had usually arisen out of the results of German 
air raids, and he was not happy that the various decisions 
reached were consistent with each other or were being put 
into effect. 'I thought', he went on, 'that, if there was 
one point on which everybody at all conversant with the 
subject was agreed, it was the necessity of an Air Staff 
constantly reviewing the whole field of Air Policy, co- 
ordinating the requirements of Army and Navy, and 
devising the best methods of offence and defence in the 
new art of independent aerial warfare. Without such a 
body I cannot imagine how we are to know either how 
to make the best use of the machines we have got or what 
types of machines we should build in the future, and what 
should be the relative numbers of the various types. 
Ministry or no Ministry therefore — and I gather that 
a full-fledged Ministry will take some time to construct 
— an Air Staff "composed on the lines of the Imperial 
General Staff" is an urgent necessity. . . . Who is in 
the meantime doing the work of that Air Staff which, 
by common consent, is so urgently required ? Is it the 
Committee which has been appointed to advise the 
Cabinet on all matters of Air Policy ? If that is to be 
our only Air Staff during the critical time ahead of us, 
I venture to say that the arrangement is quite inadequate. 
It is not clear from the minutes of its first meeting whether 
the Committee is intended to discharge executive func- 
tions, or merely to give advice. Even if the wider view 
of its functions is taken, how is it possible for a Committee 
meeting once or tv/ice a week, however able its members, 
to think out the increasingly numerous and difl&cult 
problems of aerial warfare and to control our operations 
in the air. ... I feel that we cannot accept with a light 
heart the responsibility of continuing with the ill-defined 
organization, which is all that we at present appear to 

This letter was discussed by the War Cabinet, but no 
decisions were reached, presumably because the work of 
the air organization committee had proceeded so far that 
the draft Bill, it was expected, would be ready for the 
House of Commons within two or three weeks. Finally, 

1917] LORD COWDRAY 21 

at a meeting on the 6th of November, the War Cabinet 
approved the Bill and decided that it should be laid before 

The next step was a curious one. On the i6th of 
November 191 7 a letter appeared in The Times over the 
signature of Lord Northcliffe. It was addressed to the 
Prime Minister and gave, in some detail, the reasons 
which moved Lord Northcliffe to refuse an invitation to 
take charge of the new Air Ministry. The letter was read 
by Lord Cowdray with something of a shock, for it seems 
fairly clear, from the discussions of the Air Board, that as 
President he had assumed that he would continue to be 
the responsible Minister when the Air Board had been 
enlarged as the Air Ministry. The revelation made by 
Lord Northcliife rendered the position of Lord Cowdray 
difficult and he therefore resigned. At a War Cabinet 
meeting held on the same day as the letter appeared in 
The Times, Mr. Lloyd George gave a personal explanation 
to the members. He had, he said, approached Lord 
Northcliffe with a view to his acceptance of the post of 
Secretary of State for Air, but there was no justification 
for the published letter, which had naturally placed Lord 
Cowdray in a difficult position. The Prime Minister read 
to the War Cabinet a letter, explaining the circumstances, 
which he proposed to send to Lord Cowdray. It was agreed, 
after discussion, that some such step was necessary. 

So it was that Lord Cowdray went. He did not, we 
have seen, believe in the beginning that the creation of a 
separate service for the air, however desirable, was pos- 
sible in time of war, but those who were in close touch 
with him have testified that his views underwent a change. 
It seems obvious, however, that the Government would 
wish to appoint, as first Minister for the Air, one who 
believed whole-heartedly in the unification of the two air 
services, and there was excuse for doubting whether Lord 
Cowdray fully met that desire. The manner of his de- 
parture was, all the same, unfortunate, for he had deserved 
well of the air service to which, indeed, he showed many 
marks of his devotion up to the time of his death. His 
work is written clear in the minutes of the discussions of the 


Air Board. ^ He had to guide men of conflicting interests 
equipped with inadequate powers. The agenda for each 
meeting of the Board was usually a crowded one, made up 
of items of great diversity, but the discussions, under Lord 
Cowdray's direction, were business-like, and decisions were, 
for the most part, prompt and clear-cut. 

Lord Cowdray was succeeded as President of the Air 
Board by Lord Rothermere on the 23rd of November 
19 1 7. Meanwhile, the Air Force Bill^ had been introduced 
in Parliament, and it received Royal assent on the 29th 
of November. On the 21st of December 1917 and on the 
2nd of January 191 8 Orders in Council were issued defin- 
ing the composition and duties of the members of the Air 
Council. The second of these Orders stated that the Air 
Council would come into being on the 3rd of January 191 8. 
Lord Rothermere was on the same day appointed first 
Secretary of State for the Air Force,^ and the other members 
of the Air Council, appointed at the same time, were: 

Lieutenant-General Sir David Henderson, K.C.B. 

(Additional Member and Vice-President). 
Major-General Sir Hugh Trenchard, K.C.B. 

(Chief of the Air Staff). 
Rear-Admiral Mark Kerr, C.B. 

(Deputy Chief of the Air Staff). 
Commodore Godfrey M. Paine, C.B. 

(Master-General of Personnel). 
Major-General W. S. Brancker 

(Controller-General of Equipment). 
Sir William Weir 

(Director-General of Aircraft Production in the 

Ministry of Munitions). 

^ The Second Air Board held 150 meetings in all between the 3rd of 
January 1917 and the 28th of December 1917. 

2 The Bill became law as the 'Air Force Act', but the title was later 
changed to the 'Air Force (Constitution) Act'. 

2 The Secretary of State was variously referred to as 'of the Air Force', 
*for the Air Force', 'for the Air Forces', and 'for Air'. In March 1918 it 
was announced officially that His Majesty had approved the designation 
of 'Secretary of State for the Royal Air Force'. When the Air Council, 
after the war, became responsible for civil aviation, the title was altered 
(March 1919) to 'Secretary of State for Air'. 


Sir John Hunter, K.B.E. 

(Administrator of Works and Buildings). 
Major J. L. Baird, C.M.G., D.S.O., M.P. 

(Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State). 

The acting Secretary to the Council was Mr. W. A. 
Robinson, C.B., C.B.E., and the Assistant-Secretary Mr. 
H. W. W. McAnally. 

It will be seen that Major-General Trenchard had been 
relieved of his command in France to take up the appoint- 
ment of the first Chief of the Air Staff. He brought 
to the new Ministry his unrivalled knowledge of war in 
the air, and, reluctant as they were to take him from 
his command in France, the Government believed that 
his presence in Whitehall was essential during a critical 
period. What his departure from France meant may be 
told in the words of Sir Douglas Haig, written in a letter 
to Lord Derby during the battle of Cambrai in October 
191 7. 'I am convinced', he said, 'that the proper place 
for Trenchard is in actual command of the Flying Corps 
in the field in France. It is out of the question he can be 
spared now whilst the battle is continuing. As regards 
the future it is quite evident that the Germans will make 
a serious and sustained effort before long to gain the 
mastery of the air. In addition we are, as you know, about 
to undertake bombing operations on a scale and in a 
manner which in my opinion should be controlled by 
Trenchard himself. The importance of Trenchard's per- 
sonality with the Flying units in the Field and its direct 
effect in maintaining the offensive spirit in the air so vital 
to the success of our Armies in the Field is not, I think, 
fully realized at home. You asked me to write my views 
absolutely frankly and I have no hesitation in saying that 
it is more than probable that the removal of Trenchard 
from active command in the Field would, in a short time, 
directly impair the offensive fighting efficiency of the 
Royal Flying Corps. The effect of this would not only 
be very quickly felt in France but in England also, quite 
possibly with serious results. To repeat, Trenchard's 
proper sphere is in the Field, but he must be placed in a 


'position so that he can get his requirements met from 

That Major-General Trenchard was brought home in 
spite of these representations shows how important the 
Government considered it was that his experience should 
be made available to guide the newly formed Air Ministry* 
It may also be said that the fears expressed by the Com- 
mander-in-Chief were unfounded. The work of Major- 
General Trenchard during the two and a half years in 
which he commanded the Royal Flying Corps in France was 
not lost. The spirit which he had done much to create lived 
on, as it still lives on, with an independent life of its own. 

There was a long search to find a suitable building to 
house the new Air Ministry. An endeavour was made 
to acquire the County Hall, Westminster, and when this 
attempt was coldly repelled, eyes were cast on the build- 
ing of the Metropolitan Water Board, also in vain. Atten- 
tion was next turned to museums, and the Victoria and 
Albert and British Museums were considered, without, 
however, any encouragement from the Trustees. Even- 
tually the proposal that the Air Ministry should be housed 
in the British Museum, leaving the Hotel Cecil to the 
Ministry of Munitions, reached the point (the Trustees 
still protesting) when submission was made to the War 
Cabinet for approval. Happily for all concerned, the pro- 
posal was not sanctioned, and the Air Ministry eventually 
took up its abode in the Hotel Cecil, where it remained 
until after the war.^ 

The new Ministry had a difficult and complex task. It 
had to assemble and organize the necessary administrative 
and technical staffs, to take over the duties which had 
been the concern of the War Cabinet committee on air 
policy presided over by Lieutenant-General Smuts, and 
to take all the essential steps for the amalgamation of the 
two flying services into the Air Force. ^ And it had to 

^ The Department gave up the Hotel Cecil in July 191 9 and moved to 
Kingsway, to buildings subsequently renamed Adastral House. 

2 At an Air Council meeting on the 19th of February 1918 it was stated 
that His Majesty had approved the title 'Royal Air Force'. A Royal pro- 
clamation, announcing this fact, was published on the 7th of March 1918. 


work against time. Enough had been done within a few 
weeks to make it possible for the announcement to be made 
that the Royal Air Force would come into being, as a 
separate service, on the ist of April 1918.^ 

Among the many questions which had to be dealt 
with was that of naming the officers of the new service. 
The air organization committee had approved suggested 
titles, prepared by Sir David Henderson, mostly taken 
from the navy or the army. The War Office, however, 
expressed the view that the new service should have dis- 
tinctive titles of its own, and also drew attention to the 
point that, in the suggested list, naval titles were given 
to senior officers and military titles to junior officers, a 
subtlety of distinction which might cause some resentment. 
The Admiralty stated simply that the use of naval titles, 
especially those of the higher ranks, was objectionable, 
even if given a prefix such as 'Air', and suggested that 
military titles should be adopted exclusively, or else 
others, suggestive of the air, fabricated. A list of new 
titles was manufactured as follows: Ensign^ Lieutenant^ 
Flight-Leader^ Squadron-Leader, Reeve, Banneret, Fourth- 
Ardian, Third- Ardian, Second- Ardian, Ardian, Air Mar- 
shal. An alternative list slightly varied the ranks above 
Squadron-Leader. The suggestions were: Wing Leader, 
Leader, Flight Ardian, Squadron Ardian, Wing Ardian, 
and so on. Members of the service will read these titles 
with interest, the more so because the only two which are 
in use are Squadron Leader and Air Marshal. 'Reeve', 
perhaps, savoured a little too much of legal authority, but 
one may regret 'Banneret', which has a flavour and associa- 
tions, more especially as the leader of a formation in the 
air went into battle flying a streamer which formed a 
rallying mark as did the banner of the knight for his vas- 
sals. 'Ardian' comes from the Gaelic 'Ard', meaning 'chief, 
and 'Ian' or 'Eun', a 'bird'. The translation, perhaps, 
detracts something from its dignity. Names have a fan- 
tasy of their own. Strange sounding as they may appear, 
at first hearing, they soon come to be accepted and pass 

^ The lighter-than-air service was not taken over from the Admiralty 
until October 1919. 


quietly into the language. There was no reason why a 
unit of the air service should be called a 'squadron', any- 
more than a 'company' or a 'group', which were the 
original suggestions, but so much tradition has become 
attached to the word that it would be difficult to imagine 
a squadron being called anything different. No 'Ardian' 
will ever grace a Lord Mayor's banquet, nor 'Banneret' 
pass on his way, evoking memories of another age, because 
a much over-worked committee considered the proposed 
new titles as the last item of a long and tiring agenda, and 
they took the line of least resistance and decided to keep to 
the list which they had approved at their previous meeting. 
This list, with the Admiralty and War Office objections, 
was placed before the War Cabinet, who decided to adopt 
the Admiralty view that the officers of the Air Force 
should be given military titles. So it was that on the ist 
of April 191 8 all those naval officers who transferred to 
the Royal Air Force signified their attachment to the air 
by changing their naval titles for military ones.^ 

The unity which, at long last, had been achieved in the 
service, was not, unhappily, a feature of the first Air Coun- 
cil. There appeared grave differences of view between the 
Chief of the Air Staff and the Secretary of State. There 
would be no profit in traversing the story of these differ- 
ences. It will be enough to say that Major-General 
Trenchard took a much wider view of the responsibilities 
of the Chief of the Air Staff than it appeared to him the 
Secretary of State was willing to accord, but it is clear, 
also, that there were differences of temperament. On the 
1 8th of March Major-General Trenchard submitted his 
views in a memorandum to Lord Rothermere and, on 
receipt of a reply next day, tendered his resignation. Be- 
cause he held that an announcement, at that time, might 
jeopardize the scheme of amalgamation, the Secretary of 
State deferred bringing the matter before the War Cabinet 
until the loth of April, and, on the 13th, he informed the 
Chief of the Air Staff that his resignation was accepted. 

^ New titles for the commissioned ranks of the Royal Air Force, as they 
exist to-day, were announced in orders promulgated by the Air Council 
on the 27th of August 1919. 


Major-General F. H. Sykes was appointed in his place, 
and then Sir David Henderson, the Vice-President of the 
Air Council, resigned on the grounds that he could not 
work with the new Chief of the Air Staff. On the 25th 
of April it was announced that Lord Rothermere had re- 
signed his appointment as Secretary of State^ and, a few 
days later. Sir Henry Norman, who had been appointed 
by Lord Rothermere as an 'additional member' of the 
Air Council, followed suit. That was the end of the dis- 
integration. Lord Rothermere was succeeded as Secretary 
of State, on the 27th of April, by Sir William Weir, the 
Director-General of Aircraft Production. There were 
other minor changes subsequently and, when the war 
ended, the composition of the Air Council was as follows : 

The Rt. Hon. Lord Weir of Eastwood, P.C. 

(Secretary of State for the Royal Air Force). 
Major J. L. Baird, C.M.G., D.S.O., M.P. 

(Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State). 
Major-General F. H. Sykes, C.M.G. 

(Chief of the Air Staff). 
Major-General W. S. Brancker, A.F.C. 

(Master-General of Personnel). 
Major-General E. L. Elhngton, C.M.G. 

(Controller-General of Equipment). 
Major-General Sir G. M. Paine, K.C.B., M.V.O. 

(Inspector-General of the Royal Air Force). 
Sir Arthur Duckham, K.C.B. 

(Director-General of Aircraft Production, 
Ministry of Munitions). 
Sir John Hunter, K.B.E. 

(Administrator of Works and Buildings). 
W. A. Robinson, Esq., C.B., C.B.E. 

^ Lord Rothermere had intimated at the beginning of March that ill 
health might prevent him continuing in his appointment, but he stated 
that he would not go until after the amalgamation had become an accom- 
plished fact. He had suffered much distress through the death a few weeks 
before, from wounds received in action, of his eldest son, Captain the 
Hon. H. A. V. St. G. Harmsworth, M.C. 


The two limiting factors in the war-time expansion of 
the air services were engine-supply and man-power. Aero- 
planes, or, as they would now be called, airframes, could 
be produced by unskilled labour with expert supervision, 
but the making of engines called for highly skilled atten- 
tion. Because it was late in the field the aeronautical 
industry was compelled to make use of an undue amount 
of inexpert labour, and one result was that there was 
much waste due to the rejection of defective work.^ There 
was the complication that the air services were ever search- 
ing for mechanics in order to satisfy expansion demands. 
The total number of men required to maintain one front- 
line aeroplane serviceable was high,^ and every increase in 
the number of squadrons created important new claims for 
trained mechanics. It was difficult to assess, economically, 
the allowance for spare parts, whether for engines, aero- 
planes, or accessories, because the demand for spares 
depended upon such things as battle losses and salvage 
and repair facilities, which could not be closely estimated. 

Statistics compiled in the spring of 19 17 revealed that a 
period of thirty-four weeks elapsed from the time an aero- 
plane design was approved and the time when the type was 
produced in bulk, and that the corresponding period for 
an engine was sixty-four weeks. Most of what was pro- 
duced throughout 191 7, therefore, had been initiated in 
191 6 by the air departments of the Admiralty and of the 
War Office. By the end of 1916, however, the two service 
departments had fulfilled their part. The Ministry of 
Munitions alone had the comprehensive organization 
and the experience to adapt and to expand the existing 

' The dilution of labour in twenty-one representative aircraft firms in 
October 1917 was 37'5 per cent, (compared with 32-7 per cent, in April 

2 A calculation made in the autumn of 191 7 showed that it was necessary 
to reckon a total of 47 men as required for each aeroplane kept serviceable 
at the front. (A year later this figure had been reduced to 40.) The total 
number of workers, skilled and unskilled, required to produce one aeroplane 
a month in 191 7 was shown to be 120. 

1916-17] AIR PROGRAMMES 29 

resources for large-scale production. Competition, tolerable 
so long as there was a margin of effort still not absorbed 
in war work, was no longer acceptable in 191 7, when the 
allotment of man-power and of material was raising many 
anxious problems. To obtain priorities for aircraft pro- 
duction a strong and authoritative voice was necessary, and 
this could best be supplied at the time by the Minister of 
Munitions, who controlled all except naval war material.^ 
To understand the position, so far as it concerned 
demand, when the Ministry of Munitions became respon- 
sible for aircraft supply in January 191 7, it will be neces- 
sary to go back a little. In June 1916 Sir Douglas Haig 
had submitted his expansion programme which increased 
the total number of squadrons for service on the Western 
front to fifty-six by the spring of 191 7 (excluding ten long- 
range bombing squadrons). The programme, which was 
approved, raised the aggregate number of service squad- 
rons from seventy, already sanctioned by the Government, 
to eighty-six,^ and required a corresponding increase in 
training squadrons from thirty-two to sixty (including 
the Central Flying School, calculated at four squadrons). 
In September 19 16, however, the character of the air 
war in France had changed. The Germans brought into 
action against the Royal Flying Corps the newly formed 
J agdstaffeln^ equipped with Albatros and Halberstadt 
fighters mounting twin machine-guns synchronized to 
fire through the propeller. These German aeroplanes 
were better fighting weapons than anything possessed 
by the Allied air services at the time and they soon 
exerted an influence. At the end of September 1916 
Sir Douglas Haig had warned the Army Council that he 
would require more and better fighting aeroplanes and, 
on the i6th of November, he had recommended the 

^ At a meeting of the Air Board in November 1 9 1 6 Sir David Henderson, 
the director-general of military aeronautics, speaking of the provision of 
raw material for the building of Hispano-Suiza engines in France, had said 
that his department was constantly fighting to get more labour and 
material, but that it was not strong enough to obtain what was needed. 

^ 56 squadrons in France, 10 in other theatres of war, 10 additional long- 
range bombing squadrons previously asked for by Sir Douglas Haig, and 
10 Home Defence squadrons. 


provision of twenty additional fighting squadrons, which 
would give him two fighting squadrons for each artillery 

This demand increased the total number of service 
squadrons to be provided to io6.^ Furthermore, it had by 
this time become clear that the estimate that sixty train- 
ing squadrons would suffice to maintain eighty-six service 
squadrons was too low, mainly because not enough allow- 
ance had been made for pilot casualties overseas, and the 
new estimate was that ninety-five training squadrons 
would be necessary to maintain io6 service squadrons. The 
Army Council duly sanctioned these expanded demands 
and added two night-flying squadrons to the number 
of training units. Thus in December 1916 the total of 
approved squadrons for the Royal Flying Corps was 203 
(106 service and 97 training), as compared with 102 (70 
service and 32 training squadrons) in June. That is to say, 
within about six months in 191 6 the establishment for the 
Royal Flying Corps had been doubled. 

It was calculated that, reckoning a total of eighty engines 
for each service squadron,^ about 8,000 up-to-date engines 
would be required. The training squadrons, it was stated, 
must make do with engines which had become obsolete, 
or with those which had been sent back from the front. 
At the end of 191 6, when this calculation was made, the 
Royal Flying Corps possessed about 5,200 engines, of 
which 3,300 were classified as up-to-date. Wastage was 
estimated to work out at 100 per cent, per annum, and 
the total output requirements, based upon a decision to 
make the expansion to a total of 8,000 engines effective 
within six months, were set down as 2,000 engines per 
month, including 300 a month for naval aircraft and 200 
for contingencies. 

The output of engines in December 191 6 was at the 
rate of about 600 per month, and Lord Curzon, the Presi- 
dent of the first Air Board, was of the opinion that no 
expansion of output was possible without reorganization 
and some form of centralized control. It was mainly for 

^ Two squadrons were subsequently added for night flying. 

^ In June 191 6 the basic figure of engines per squadron was forty-six. 

1917] 2,000 ENGINES MONTHLY 31 

this reason that the Air Board had been reorganized in 
January 191 7 and that the responsibihty for aircraft sup- 
pHes had been transferred to the Ministry of Munitions. 
The Aeronautical Department in the Ministry was formed 
by a staff of about 1,200 officers and officials from the 
Admiralty and War Office,^ and was placed under the 
charge of Mr. William Weir who, on the 24th of January 
191 7, was appointed Controller of Aeronautical Equip- 
ment. He was also given a seat on the reorganized Air 
Board (the second, or Cowdray, Air Board) together with 
Mr. Percy Martin who, with the title of Controller of 
Petrol Engine Supply, was responsible, in the Ministry 
of Munitions, for the allotment of contracts for all engines, 
whether for tanks, mechanical transport, or aircraft. 

A programme to produce 2,000 engines each month 
was at once laid down (in January 1917), but it could not 
be realized before, at the earliest, the autumn of 191 7. 
The problem was how to tide over the opening months 
of the year when the Germans, it was anticipated, would 
make their strongest efforts to gain air superiority. Help 
was sought from the Admiralty, and naval aircraft, fight- 
ing squadrons, and aircraft engines, were placed at the 
disposal of the Royal Flying Corps, but they did not suffice. 
In April 191 7, when the situation was at its worst, the 
number of flying hours for each officer killed or missing 
on the Western front dropped to ninety-two as compared 
with 295 for August, 1916, and with a monthly average 
of about 190 for the whole war period. 

That the supply situation was grave for part of 19 17 
may have owed a little to the outlook of Lord Curzon, 
the President of the first Air Board. In November 1916, 
when consideration was being given by the Air Board 
to an Admiralty proposal to order 8,000 Hispano-Suiza 
aircraft engines in France,^ Lord Curzon had said that 
'the increasing exhaustion of the belligerents rendered it 
'doubtful whether a supply in the latter half of 191 7 
'or early 191 8 would be of any service for the purposes of 

^ By the Armistice the staff had increased to 17,250. 
^ 3,500 were to be allotted to Britain, 3,000 to France, and 1,500 to 
Russia. Britain was to provide all raw material. 


*the war. . . . We were every month coming nearer to the 
*point of general exhaustion beyond which the war could 
*not go on. . . . An analogy of ships ^ was not a perfect one, 
*for ships would be of use even after the war, but to be 
'left with a very large number of aeroplanes might be 
'highly inconvenient.' In spite of Lord Curzon's objec- 
tions the Air Board confirmed the Admiralty order of 8,000 
Hispano-Suiza engines in France, and in the first quarter 
of 191 8, when they were delivered in great quantities, 
these engines saved the supply situation.^ 

Standardization of Engines 

When, in January 191 7, the Ministry of Munitions 
came to place orders in accordance with the output pro- 
gramme of 2,000 engines per month many difiiculties had 
to be faced. At the time the programme was put forward 
there were engines of forty different designs under con- 
struction, and it was realized that if mass production was 
to be achieved there must be some standardization of 
types of engine. Unhappily a grave mistake was made in 
the beginning — a mistake which was destined to upset the 
whole engine production programme for the remainder 
of the war. One of the more important types which came 
under consideration was the 200 horse-power water- 
cooled engine, and in this class there were four engines 
of comparable qualities. They were the B.H.P. (Beard- 
more-Halford-Pullinger) and a Sunbeam, both of six 
cylinders, and the Hispano-Suiza and another Sunbeam 
of eight cylinders. At the beginning of January 1917 the 
internal combustion engine sub-committee of the Advisory 
Committee for Aeronautics^ had been asked by the Air 
Board to consider these four engines and to say which was 

^ It had been pointed out that the Admiralty followed a definite routine 
of ordering for a period of eighteen months ahead. 

^ The Hispano was mainly ordered from the Mayen Company in France. 
The firm built a large factory for which money was advanced by the British 
Government (approximately £2 million). Output, however, did not begin 
until late in 1917. 

2 The Advisory Committee for Aeronautics had been appointed by Mr. 
Asquith, Prime Minister, in 1909, to 'secure the co-operation of the 
laboratory with the services' (See Vol. I, pp. 158-9). 


most suitable for mass production. The members of the 
sub-committee made a very thorough examination and, at 
the end of January, they recommended the adoption of the 
eight-cyhnder Sunbeam. Although the engine had not yet 
developed 200 horse-power the sub-committee expressed 
the opinion that it would produce this power without 
any danger of a break-down. They also recommended 
the B.H.P. engine as being superior to the six-cylinder 
Sunbeam. Acting on these expert recommendations, the 
Air Board requested the Ministry of Munitions to place 
contracts for the eight-cylinder Sunbeam, later known 
as the Sunbeam Arab. The Austin company received 
orders for 1,000 of these engines, a number which was 
doubled by new contracts placed in July 1917.^ An order 
for 1,000 Arabs was also given to the firm of Willys Over- 
land in America instead of orders for a similar number of 
Hispano-Suiza engines, as had been intended before the 
sub-committee reported in favour of the Sunbeam Arab. 
At the time when these large orders were placed with 
different manufacturers, the Sunbeam Arab was an un- 
tried engine and there was at least one officer who ques- 
tioned the wisdom of placing so much reliance upon an 
engine which had yet to be proved. This was Captain 
R. H. Verney, of the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate, 
and he wrote a letter to the internal-combustion engine 
sub-committee pointing out many details of the Sunbeam 
engine which were still experimental as compared with the 
Hispano-Suiza. The members of the sub-committee 
thereupon reconsidered the matter, but they decided that 
there was no reason to modify their original findings. In 
particular, they pointed out that they had kept in mind 
the difficulties, referred to by Captain Verney, connected 
with the production of aluminium castings, but it was 
their conviction that the troubles were not insuperable. 
The whole matter was reviewed by the Air Board at their 
meeting on the 21st of March, and the statement was then 

^ Orders for the Arab were also placed with the Lanchester, Napier, and 
Sunbeam firms. The total orders, 4,400 engines, exceeded those for any 
other type of engine in the 1917-18 programme. It was anticipated that 
1,800 would be delivered by the end of 1 91 7. 

2504.6 r. 


made that the B.H.P. and R.A.F. 4a engines were in the 
same category, and that there were, in fact, no fewer than 
4,000 engines due for dehvery between June and December 
191 7 which depended upon the success of the aluminium 

The B.H.P. type was put into production about the 
same time as the Sunbeam Arab. An order for 2,000 
B.H.P. engines was placed with the Siddeley Deasy Com- 
pany. The firm of Wolseley were given the task of produc- 
ing the Hispano-Suiza engine in England. So far as rotary 
engines were concerned, attention was mainly centred on 
the 130 horse-power Clerget, which was being manufac- 
tured in England and in France, but an engine designed 
by Lieutenant W. O. Bentley, first known as the A.R.i., 
and later as the B.R.i., or Bentley Rotary, was being 
favourably considered for future development. 

The position, about March 1917, may be thus sum- 
marized. The engines on which production was mainly 
concentrated were the Sunbeam Arab, the B.H.P., the 
Hispano-Suiza, Rolls-Royce, and R.A.F. 4a, the 130 horse- 
power Clerget, the no horse-power Le Rhone, and the 
Bentley Rotary. On the 1st of March a total of 19,709 
engines were on order. 

The Sunbeam Arab Failure 

By May 191 7 it was becoming apparent that the engine 
programme was in jeopardy. The Sunbeam Arab, on test, 
had revealed weaknesses of cylinder and crank chamber, 
and many modifications had had to be introduced. The 
engine was so unsatisfactory that at an Air Board meeting 
on the 2nd of May Lord Cowdray said that it was desir- 
able, if it were possible, that the Hispano-Suiza engine 
should be manufactured in place of the Arab, but Mr. 
Martin pointed out that the differences between the two 
engines were such that the firms which were making the 
Sunbeam Arabs could not be switched over to the manu- 
facture of the Hispano-Suiza. A fortnight later the outlook 
appeared less menacing. The Sunbeam Arab, after modi- 
fications in the design had been incorporated, had satis- 
factorily completed a run of 100 hours on the test bench. 


Subsequently, however, it was found necessary to intro- 
duce further modifications. There were also many changes 
in the specifications for material, mainly for gearwheels, 
propeller shafts, pump spindle, cylinder blocks, &c., and 
it was not until the end of the year that the design of the 
Sunbeam Arab had been finally settled. The original 
calculations, on which the expanded programme for the 
Royal Flying Corps had been partly based, had allowed for 
an output of 1,800 Arab engines before the end of 191 7: 
the number delivered was eighty-one. 

The failure of the Sunbeam Arab engine, a failure which 
entailed much waste of effort and money, and limited the 
expansion of the air services, should not be lightly passed 
over. In war, risks must be run, but there are some risks 
which are only rarely justifiable. It was a gamble to 
choose an untried engine with many experimental features 
for mass production, more especially because grave mis- 
givings had been expressed by at least one ofl[icer of 
practical experience. Whether the members of the sub- 
committee, upon whose advice the engine was chosen for 
production, were adequately apprised of the important 
part which the Sunbeam Arab was scheduled to play in 
the whole aircraft production programme it is impossible 
to say. The assumption is that they were, but, in any 
event, their responsibility was a grave one and they cannot 
be absolved from some blame for an error of judgement of 
which the consequences were serious. 

^he Hispano-Suiza 

There was trouble also with the 200 horse-power His- 
pano-Suiza under manufacture by the Wolseley Company. 
On the 7th of May 1 9 1 7 Sir William Weir had to report that 
the engine, on test, had broken four successive crankshafts 
after an average run of no more than four hours. After 
further trials and conferences, eleven modifications were 
made in the design, with the result that the rate of output 
had to be considerably revised. Meanwhile, in an attempt 
to safeguard the position, the Wolseley Company had 
been asked to make 400 Hispano engines of the existing 
150 horse-power type, but even this order did not go 


smoothly. ^ It was, apparently, not made sufficiently clear to 
the Wolseley firm that it was the existing type which they 
were required to reproduce, and they therefore set about 
the design of a new high-compression engine which would 
develop 150 horse-power. Much time was wasted before 
the mistake was rectified, and whereas it had been expected 
that, by the end of August 1917, 140 of these engines 
would have been delivered, the number produced was ten. 
There was trouble, too, with the early 200 horse-power 
Hispano engines delivered in England from the French 
firm of Brasier. Many of these engines would not stand 
up to their work and they had to be sent to the Clement 
Talbot factory for overhaul. One serious defect which 
was disclosed was a faulty hardening of the gearwheels 
and propeller shaft, and these parts had to be replaced 
by spares of British manufacture. In October 191 7, how- 
ever, the general engine position had become so critical 
that some of the French Hispanos were passed with soft 
gears, on the plea that engines of incomplete efficiency 
were better than none at all. It may be that there was 
adequate justification for such a step. If so, it is difficult 
to discover. The engines were faulty and therefore danger- 
ous in the air, and to order a pilot to fly an aeroplane in 
which he must, to his normal risks, add the risk of death 
or injury because of known defective material, is a way to 
undermine morale. A soldier who has no confidence in his 
weapons is already half-way to defeat. A pilot who knows 
that he must mistrust his engine is in equally bad plight 
because he is aware that when the engine fails, all his quali- 
ties, no matter how brilliant, will avail him little. ^ 

^ The order was subsequently increased to 1,100. The type became 
known as the Wolseley Viper. 

^ Entries were made in the log-books issued with these engines which 
said that their running should be carefully watched. It was also stated that 
the gearwheels on the airscrew shaft were unevenly case-hardened, and 
had been fitted, on instructions, because no others were available. 

The engines were only accepted by the Aeronautical Inspection Director- 
ate (whichlooked upon themasunsatisfactory) on directwritten instructions. 

Commanders of units complained that the entry in the log-book had a 
very adverse effect on the morale of pilots called upon to fly aeroplanes 
fitted with these engines. 


One important result of the production failures of the 
Sunbeam Arab and of the Hispano-Suiza engines was to 
postpone the re-equipment of the R.E.8 squadrons in 
France with Bristol Fighters. At an Air Board meeting 
in the middle of August 191 7 Sir William Weir said that 
the change was due to begin about April 191 8, and he 
asked whether it was desirable to substitute the Bristol 
Fighter for the R.E.8 during the fighting season. If the 
change was deferred until September 1 9 1 8, the result would 
be that 1,360 Hispano engines would be made available for 
other purposes. The discussion was a lively one, during 
which it was said that there could be no justification for 
giving pilots an inferior aeroplane if it was possible, with 
extra energy, to provide a better one. It was ultimately 
agreed that the original programme for the substitution 
of Bristol Fighters for the R.E.8 aeroplane should stand. 
At a meeting a fortnight later, however. Sir William Weir 
returned to the argument. A result of the replacement 
programme would be a shortage of Hispano and Sunbeam 
Arab engines. After some discussion the Board agreed to 
postpone the change over from the R.E.8 to the Bristol 
Fighter until September 191 8. 

Another result of the production failures of these two 
engines was that, in January 191 8, there were about 400 
new S.E.5 aeroplanes lying in store because there were no 
engines for them. Aeroplanes would, as delivered, have 
continued to accumulate in the acceptance parks, and the 
position in the early months of 191 8 would have been 
serious indeed if it had not been that the French Hispano- 
Suiza engines, particularly those made by the Mayen 
Company in their specially built factories, were delivered 
in large quantities in fulfilment of the orders for 8,000 
placed as a result of British Admiralty insistence at the end 
of 19 16. The fighting personnel of the Royal Air Force 
in 191 8 had every reason to applaud the foresight and 
tenacity of the naval staff in Whitehall. 

Failure of the B.H.P. Engine 
The story of the B.H.P. engine is no more exhilarating. 
When the engine was made in small numbers it proved to 


be satisfactory, but before it could be produced in mass 
the Siddeley Deasy Company, who held orders for 2,000, 
had to introduce changes in design of a kind necessary 
for bulk production. There was delay before these 
changes could be brought into operation, and further 
modifications were subsequently judged necessary after 
trial of the engine in the air. One result was that when, 
in July 191 7, the first batch of engines was delivered 
to the Aircraft Manufacturing Company to be fitted in 
D.H.4 aeroplanes, it was found that the engines were 
very different from the drawings around which the aero- 
planes had been built. The engines, as delivered, would 
not fit the aeroplanes made to receive them, and the 
latter had to go back into the shops for important altera- 

This, however, was a minor happening. The worst 
failure was in the production of the aluminium cylinder 
blocks. By July 191 7 enough had been made to enable the 
Siddeley Deasy Company to reckon upon a production of 
100 engines a month, but it was soon discovered that more 
than 90 per cent, of the cylinder blocks were defective. A 
statement submitted to the Air Board in July showed that 
20 per cent, of the rejections were due to defective castings, 
and 35 per cent, each to porousness and to damage sustained 
in machining. In addition, a few which had no obvious 
faults failed on test. The difficulties associated with the 
production of an efficient aluminium cylinder persisted 
throughout most of the summer of 191 7, and the output 
programme, for this reason alone, was put back six months. 
Finally, when the engines began to be produced in reason- 
able quantities there was trouble with the exhaust valves, 
which burnt out. More time was expended while this 
defect was remedied, and thus it was that the full output 
of B.H.P. engines was not achieved until thespringof 191 8. 
By that time general progress in air warfare had reached 
a stage when the power developed by the B.H.P. engine 
was insufficient to enable the aeroplanes in which it was 
fitted to do the work expected of them. In other words, 
the engine had become obsolete before the mass produc- 
tion stage had been reached. 


A War Cabinet Investigation 

We have so far discussed developments in the Hght of 
the January 19 17 programme for an output of 2,000 
engines per month. It will now be necessary to consider 
matters arising out of the Government decision, following 
the German daylight bombing attack on London in June 
1917, to double the air services, that is, to increase the 
number of military service squadrons from 108 to 200, with 
a corresponding increase in the Royal Naval Air Service. As 
a result, the Government sanctioned an extended engine 
output which would ultimately reach 4,500 each month, 
including supplies from overseas.^ The limit of 4,500 per 
month was fixed for Treasury purposes, and there was an 
understanding that when this figure was being approached 
the matter was again to be brought before the War 
Cabinet for further expansion if judged desirable. It is 
of interest that a twelve months' supply of complete aero- 
planes and seaplanes, with their spares, on the basis of an 
output of engines of 4,500 per month, was estimated to 
cost a little over ;^200 million sterling, that is to say, about 
^20 million more than the total budget of Great Britain 
for 1913.^ 

The Government had registered their decision about air 
expansion and did not again consider the matter in detail 
until September 191 7, when the Germans began their 
night-bombing campaign against England. The War 
Cabinet asked Lieutenant-General J. C. Smuts to formu- 
late proposals for carrying the air war into Germany at 
the earliest possible moment and, on the i8th of Septem- 
ber, he placed before the members of the Cabinet an 
illuminating memorandum which was read by them with 

^ 3,500 each month from British sources, 500 from America, and 500 
from France. The figures do not include spare parts which were estimated 
as an additional 75 per cent. 

^ The actual value of the contracts placed for all aircraft, spares, and 
accessories, for the year 1918 was i^i 57,75 3,583. The corresponding amount 
for 19 1 7 was £48,714,642. For military aircraft and supplies, the contracts 
placed in 1914 were valued at £1,568,882; for 191 5 at £8,215,165; and for 
1916, £21,963,083: the corresponding figures for naval aircraft and sup- 
plies for these years are not available. 


a sense of shock. 'I am', he said, 'somewhat alarmed by 
'the backwardness of our preparations, and would ask the 
'War Cabinet to give the matter their most earnest atten- 
'tion. Both from an offensive and defensive point of view 
'our air preparations and operations deserve the closest 
'attention. That the enemy is making a very special effort 
'in the air is undoubted. General Trenchard is quite clear 
'that the enemy has never been stronger in the air than he 
'is to-day, and that relatively we are not so strong as we 
'were some months ago. . . . General Trenchard, there- 
'fore, presses most strongly for an acceleration of our air- 
'craft programme so that this position may be improved 
'instead of worsened before the winter. ... As regards the 
'campaign of next spring and summer, the fear amongst 
'officers is chiefly that the enemy is making very great 
'preparations to recover ascendency in the air, and that 
'success for him in that respect may have very far-reaching 
'consequences on the course of the war. Even from a purely 
'defensive point of view, therefore, we are called upon to 
'make a very great effort in the air. But our preparations 
'should be on such a scale as not only to make our defen- 
'sive position secure, but to enable us to gain a decisive 
'superiority on the battle fronts so that the road may be 
'clear for our offensive bombing policy against the in- 
'dustrial and munition centres of Germany.' 

The aircraft programme which General Trenchard 
wanted accelerated was not, as might readily be assumed, 
the one which increased the total number of Royal Flying 
Corps service squadrons to 200, but the earlier one, ap- 
proved in December 19 16, under which the total of service 
squadrons was 106. It was clear from the papers placed 
before the Cabinet by Lieutenant-General Smuts that 
not only was there no hope whatsoever, with the existing 
organization of resources, of fulfilment for the larger 
programme, but that the earlier and much more modest 
programme was in jeopardy. 'I consider', said Lieutenant- 
General Smuts, 'that the Cabinet have really no option, 
'but must give the fullest and most complete priorities 
'necessary not only to carry it into effect but even to 
'accelerate it. If this is not done, we shall run risks which 

1917] WAR POLICY 41 

'may well prove disastrous. . . . The more limited air pro- 
*gramme should be carried out at all costs, and with the 
'same priorities which were accorded to the shell pro- 
'gramme in 191 5. . . . There remains the more difficult 
'question of the more extended air programme of 200 
'service squadrons, which will give far greater scope to an 
'air offensive next year. The question is really one of 
'fundamental war policy to be decided by the Cabinet 
'after hearing the advice of their military experts. From 
'a merely military point of view how do we propose to 
'win the war ? Can the Navy win it, and if not, should we 
'expend our resources on additions to the Navy which 
'cannot affect the course of events, at any rate during the 
'present war ? Is there a reasonable prospect of the Army 
'winning a decisive victory, on the Western or any other 
'of our fronts ? And if, with the sobering experience which 
'we have had for the last three years, we do not expect 
'any decisive military victory, but only such success as 
'will effectively undermine the enemy morale and dispose 
'him to a reasonable peace, then it is to be considered 
'whether an extended air offensive will not conduce more 
'powerfully to that result than almost any other form of 
'military operations. I am disposed to think so, although 
'the subject is not one on which one would choose to be 
'dogmatic. I hope it may be possible, not only to give 
'the necessary priorities for the more limited programme, 
'but for any reasonable additions which might conduce to 
'a more effective air offensive next spring and summer. . . .' 
This memorandum of Lieutenant-General Smuts had 
something of an explosive effect. The members of the 
War Cabinet had been led to believe that there would be 
a substantial surplus of aircraft production available in 
1918, after the requirements of the army and of the navy 
had been met, and it was, indeed, mainly to direct this 
surplus that a separate Air Ministry had been proposed. 
Now they were being informed by Lieutenant-General 
Smuts that even the much smaller earlier programme of 
expansion, sanctioned for work with the armies, was not 
being fulfilled, and that the resources were not available 
to double the air services as the Government had decided 


to do in July 191 7. The main result of the discussions 
which centred round the memorandum was the setting 
up of the War Priorities Committee.^ 

Although General Smuts had become alarmed at the 
backwardness of the preparations for air warfare, it is 
clear that he would have been still more perturbed if 
he had not been in an atmosphere which, judged by 
the results, was one of optimism. A statement was 
placed before the Air Board on the 6th of Septem- 
ber 191 7 which set out what the position would be in 
June 191 8 so far as concerned aeroplanes and engines. 
It was shown that the output of training aeroplanes 
would suffice, as from January 191 8, to train pilots for 
200 service squadrons. Furthermore, there would be a 
substantial surplus of engines, after the requirements for 
132 service squadrons had been met, and the question the 
Air Board was asked to consider was how this surplus 
might best be used towards the completion of the pro- 
gramme for 200 service squadrons. The engines would be 
of a kind which would produce fifteen additional bomb- 
ing squadrons and eighteen fighting squadrons, or a 
total of thirty-three squadrons towards the sixty-eight. 
The bombing squadrons would be equipped with B.H.P. 
or Fiat2 engines, and the fighting squadrons with Hispano- 
Suiza, Sunbeam Arab, Clerget, or Bentley rotary engines. 
How much these estimates were coloured by hope is 
seen from the following table: 

As at June igi8 






B.H.P. and Fiat . 

Hispano-Suiza and Sun- 
beam Arab 
Clerget and B.R.i . 








^ See Chapter I, pp. 15-17. 

^ On the initiative of Sir William Weir, 2,000 Fiat engines (250 horse- 
power) had been ordered in Paris at the end of August 1917. They were 
contracted for delivery between January 191 8 and June 191 8, and 1,000 were 
for America and 1,000 for ourselves for employment in D.H.9 aeroplanes. 


The Bentley Rotary 

Meanwhile, in the autumn of 191 7, great hopes had 
been placed on the new Bentley rotary engine, of similar 
design to the B.R.i, but of a nominal 200 instead of 150 
horse-power. In April 191 7 the Air Board had ordered 
three B.R.2 experimental engines, and when the first was 
tested at the beginning of October it gave 234 horse- 
power and ran in a way which made the experts enthusi- 
astic. A programme was thereupon drawn up which 
contemplated a monthly output of 1,500 Bentley engines 
by July 191 8. At an Air Board meeting at which this pro- 
gramme was discussed, Major-General Brancker said that 
the new Bentley could be employed in every aeroplane 
in France, except bombers, and Sir William Weir called 
attention to the importance of this statement, which 
meant that a great move in the direction of standardiza- 
tion could be achieved. By the middle of October orders 
for the B.R.2 had already been placed for deliveries which 
would ultimately reach 900 engines per month. 

Unhappily the ill luck which dogged those responsible 
for engine supply again supervened. The placing of large 
orders for the Bentley meant that rotary-type engines 
were being adopted on a scale incomparably larger than 
anything that had before been contemplated. As a fact, 
the B.R.2 duly fulfilled every expectation, and if a few 
weeks had passed without another design appearing on the 
test bench there is no doubt that the Air Board would have 
gone ahead with their Bentley programme with no effec- 
tive misgivings. Two days after the Air Board had made 
their decision, however, the attention of the members was 
called to a new engine. This was the A.B.C. Dragonfly fixed 
radial,^ and it was described as an extremely simple engine, 
both in design and for production purposes. It would be 
cheap to make, and it was considered that production 
could begin within three or four months. It was revealed 

^ A.B.C. Motors, Limited, of Walton-on-Thames, had been invited, in 
April 1 91 7, to submit designs for an engine for the 191 8 programme. They 
had, in August 191 7, been given an order for three experimental engines 
to be called the Dragonjly. 


in discussion that the Dragonfly^ in a suitably designed 
aeroplane, would give 300 horse-power and a speed of 
156 miles per hour at 15,000 feet, and that it was expected 
to reach this height in eight and a half minutes. The task of 
the Air Board was a difficult one. The members were rather 
in the position of a punter confronted with impressive news 
from different stables. They had backed the wrong engines 
before, and the consequences had been grave. There was 
a feeling that it was not right to concentrate great resources 
on the production of the Bentley if the A.B.C. Dragonfly 
was likely to prove a better engine. There were, however, 
differences of opinion about the possibilities of the Dragon- 
fly, It was argued that the engine was an unknown quan- 
tity, and it was said that manufacturers had expressed 
doubts about its efficiency, and that some of them were 
of the opinion that the engine had been cut down too 
finely in the matter of weight.^ The choice was between 
the B.R.2, which was not very different in design from 
its predecessor, the well-tried and successful B.R.i, and 
an untried engine, with novel experimental features. The 
members of the Board, mindful, no doubt, of the unhappy 
results of past orders on a large scale for untried engines, 
began cautiously. They decided not to disturb their 
contracts for the B.R.2, and to ask the Vickers Company, 
of Crayford, to produce the Dragonfly as a speculative 
measure. As time went on, however, faith in the Dragon- 
fly grew apace, and large contracts for the engine were 
placed during 191 8. Not only did the Dragonfly prove to 
be a failure from the production point of view, but it was 
also dangerous in the air. Output had barely begun at 
the time of the Armistice so that the failure had no effect 
on the war, but manufacture did absorb labour which 
might have been employed in making the Bentley or other 
tried engines, and, certainly, had the war continued into 
1919, the failure of the A.B.C. Dragonfly would have put 
an effective brake, once again, upon the expansion of the 
air service.^ 

' 380 lb. for 300 horse-power. 

^ Orders for some 12,000 Dragonfly engines were placed. Experiments 
to make the engine a success were not abandoned as useless until 1921. 


Rolls-Royce Output 

In the 191 8 air expansion programme Rolls-Royce 
engines were given a predominating place. The Rolls- 
Royce Company, in the early days of the war, made 
engines of Renault and Royal Aircraft Factory design, but 
the firm were encouraged by the Admiralty to develop 
a high-powered engine of their own, the contract which 
was given to them being of an indefinite kind, framed to 
avoid putting any unnecessary restriction in their way. 
The first experimental Rolls-Royce 250 horse-power 12- 
cylinder engine, afterwards called the Eagle ^ ran on the test 
bench in March 191 5, and the first batch was delivered 
to the services in October of the same year. Meanwhile 
two other designs, for a 75 horse-power 6-cylinder engine 
(the Hazvk) and for a 190 horse-power 12-cylinder (the 
Falcon), had been put in hand. The Rolls-Royce engines 
were a success from the beginning, and it was soon apparent 
that the air services would want all they could get. Output, 
however, could not easily be expanded because manufacture 
required much handwork of a highly skilled kind. Rolls- 
Royce were reluctant to hand over their designs to other 
makers, particularly to manufacturers in America, because 
they were jealous of their good name and they did not 
believe that other makers, without the Rolls-Royce experi- 
ence, could produce an engine of the required standard. 

In June 191 6 the President of the Air Board had invited 
representatives of engine firms to a conference to discuss 
the possibilities of accelerating engine output by March 
191 7. Mr. Claud Johnson, who spoke for Rolls-Royce, put 
forward a lengthy memorandum which he had prepared 
in consultation with Mr. Royce. 'Although it is probable', 
he wrote, 'that for military reasons the urgent problem is 
'the provision of the greatest number of aircraft by a certain 

The engine gave great power for its weight, for a short time, and there 
are those who believe that it would have justified itself on the basis of 
a change of engine after each patrol. 'They did get it to the stage 
'in which it was rehable for two and a half hours', says Mr, C. G. Grey, 
'and it gave such colossal power for its weight . . ., that if we had got those 
'engines through in quantities and had equipped a number of squadrons 
'with them they would have paid for themselves on their results.' 


*date, it is suggested that the greater task, namely, the 
^attainment and retention for this Empire of the dominion 
'of the air should not be interfered with.' He pointed 
out that forty-nine days after the opening of the war, his 
company had written a letter to a high official at the War 
Office suggesting that the war would be largely an affair 
of machine-guns, and expressing the willingness of the 
Rolls-Royce firm to make them. A reply had been received 
which said that 'only one firm makes these, viz. Vickers, 
'and I am told here that their output, which is of course 
'very large, is amply sufficient for all Army and Navy 
'requirements.' Eight months later Rolls-Royce had been 
begged to start at once the manufacture of machine-guns. 
He quoted this instance as an example of a lack of vision 
which was, he suggested, affecting the air expansion pro- 
gramme. There was a new factory nearing completion at 
Derby, but because it could not be fitted out in time for 
production to be taken into account in the March 191 7 
programme, the authorities refused to allow Rolls-Royce 
to proceed with its equipment. He was himself firmly 
convinced that the air services would require not only the 
additional 500 engines per year which could be produced 
at the factory, but many more for 'building and keeping 
*up-to-date an air fleet of a magnitude which it is difficult 
'to conceive at present'. 

The output of engines, Mr. Claud Johnson explained, 
was conditioned by (i) the number of workmen, (ii) the 
quantity of machine tools, and (iii) the supply of material, 
all of which were controlled by the Government. He 
went on to specify the extent to which the output of 
Rolls-Royce engines could be increased according to how 
much additional labour, &c., was allotted to his firm. He 
also pointed out difficulties he had had with sub-contrac- 
tors. After they had entered into agreements with him 
they sometimes received orders for other work, to which 
they gave preference, from the Admiralty or the War 
Office, and the result was that the output of parts upon 
which Rolls-Royce depended was subject to incalculable 
delays. This state of affairs could be remedied, he said, 
only by an effective control over the sub-contractors. His 


practical suggestion was that the Air Board should select 
a number of big manufacturers who had produced suc- 
cessful aircraft engines of a desired type. These firms, say 
half a dozen, would constitute central factories for the 
manufacture and improvement of various types of engine. 
The remaining firms could then be told by the Air Board 
that they would be required to devote themselves to mak- 
ing parts for one of the selected engines. The sub-con- 
tractors could be allotted to the central factories according 
to geographical position, fitness, and to the output desired 
for the various types. Each central factory should be made 
responsible for the design and manufacture of jigs and 
tools required by the sub-contractors, and should also be 
responsible for ordering the material, including what was 
required by the sub-contractors. All engine-testing should 
be done at the central factory. The central factory idea 
thus advocated was adopted, but not until nearly two 
years had elapsed.^ 

Some of the points made by Mr. Claud Johnson may 
be quoted for their general interest : 

'Most designers regard their production with the same 
pride as good mothers have for their babies. A depart- 
ment which is engaged in design of a certain article 
cannot be fair critics of similar articles created by other 

'So far as the present war is concerned, it would perhaps 
be unwise to rely on newly invented engines and wiser 
to choose the best existing engines, and concentrate on 
manufacturing them in the largest possible numbers.' 

'Aero engines comprise such a large number of different 
parts that, instead of multiplying the number of establish- 
ments producing completed engines (each of which would 
have to overcome the difficulties of learning the secrets 
of the manufacture of each part), it would be better that 
each sub-contractor should make a few parts in large 

'Existing contracts departments under the Treasury 
are controlled by men who have been reared in red tape, 
and by systems which make rapid achievement impossible. 

^ See p. 51. 


'They have been surrounded by regulations until many 
'of them have become as timid as chickens and as obstinate 
'as mules.' 

By February 191 7 the position as it concerned the Rolls- 
Royce output had become serious, and a minute signed by 
Major-General Brancker stated that unless the shortage 
of Rolls-Royce engines could be remedied it vv^ould be- 
come necessary to abandon the equipment of several 
D.H.4 squadrons: it v^as indeed already difficult to main- 
tain the three F.E.zd and D.H.4 Rolls-Royce squadrons 
in the field. Of forty-two 250 horse-pov^er Rolls-Royce 
engines promised for January 191 7, only sixteen had been 
delivered, and no more than ten 190-horse-povv^er engines 
had come from the same makers in fulfilment of a promise 
of thirty-tw^o. There w^as some strong talk at an Air Board 
meeting on the 12th of February and Lord Cow^dray, the 
President, said that if it w^as judged necessary the Ministry 
of Munitions would not hesitate to put their own manager 
into the firm. 

One of the reasons why the production of Rolls-Royce 
engines was delayed was an accumulation of repair work. 
The parts were not interchangeable, so that spare gear 
could not be supplied, and all disabled engines had to be 
sent to the makers. The Rolls-Royce Company had been 
alive to the possibilities of congestion which this necessity 
brought in its train, and they had proposed to the Air 
Board in the autumn of 1916 that they should be allowed 
to build a special repair shop. The Board, however, had 
withheld consent. In June 191 7 Sir William Weir once 
again brought the matter to the notice of the Board and 
pressed for a favourable decision, but Mr. Martin pointed 
out that an alternative scheme was under consideration 
whereby the naval and military air services would become 
responsible for their own repairs to Rolls-Royce engines, 
and after listening to Mr. Martin it was decided not to 
sanction the special repair factory which the firm was 
anxious to construct. Within a short time, however, the 
Board changed its mind. In July 191 7 the members of the 
Board, disquieted because of the serious delays in the re- 
pair of Rolls-Royce engines, and mindful that the sum of 


money involved was small, at long last agreed to allow the 
firm to go ahead with the building of a special repair factory 
which would, it was estimated, be working within six 

In the same month, however, the Board put a brake 
upon another ambition of the firm. A telegram was 
received from Mr. Claud Johnson in which it was stated 
that Rolls-Royce had the opportunity to acquire a fac- 
tory capable of producing, between June 191 8 and 
February 191 9, 2,000 Eagle engines at a price of ^2,400 
per engine, and he asked whether the Air Board was 
interested. The Board decided that a reply should be 
sent thanking Mr. Johnson, but declining the proposal. 

In August the accumulation of repair work at the Rolls- 
Royce factories was such that new production was falling 
alarmingly behind schedule. The Air Board decided that 
the only thing to be done was for the Government to 
take over the works of the Clement Talbot Company to 
help the Rolls-Royce Company with repairs. The scheme 
which finally emerged was one whereby the Clement 
Talbot firm were made responsible not only for the repair 
of Rolls-Royce engines, but also for manufacture of the 
Falcon type engine at the rate of twenty engines per week.^ 
Some members of the Rolls-Royce staff were immediately 
transferred to Clement Talbot's, but many months elapsed 
before the scheme was working satisfactorily. By February 
1919 the firm had repaired about 600 engines, but they 
had not been able to produce any, mainly because of delays 
in the acquisition of the necessary machine tools. 

Negotiations for the establishment of a Rolls-Royce 
factory in America had been opened in the middle of 
1 91 6, but they had come to nothing chiefly because the 
British firm were unwilling to enter into any arrangement 
which gave them no more than a money interest in the 
American company. The Air Board, in June 191 7, dis- 
cussed the question of coercing the Rolls-Royce Company 
to come to a reasonable arrangement, but, happily, after 
some heated discussion, the idea of compulsion was 

^ The factory was made a national one under the management of the 
Clement Talbot Company, see pp. 53-7. 
2504.6 F 


abandoned. In August 191 7 Lord Northcliffe^ sent a tele- 
gram from America urging that orders should be placed in 
that country for 2,000 or more Rolls-Royce engines, and as 
a result of this telegram negotiations were begun with the 
object of making the Pierce Arrow factory in America 
available for the manufacture of the engines. No agree- 
ment, however, could be reached, and as an alternative 
it was suggested that America might make finished parts 
which could be assembled by the Rolls-Royce Company in 
England. This proposal received the approval of the firm 
and of the Air Board in October 191 7, and it was even- 
tually agreed that the British Government should order in 
America, and pay for, 1,500 sets of Eagle engine parts for 
delivery before the end of 191 8. As a result, contracts were 
placed in America for Rolls-Royce parts to a total amount 
of about $11 milhon,^ and new buildings, for assembly of 
the parts, were added to the Rolls-Royce works at Derby. 

Before, however, the final order to go ahead could be 
given the approval of the British Treasury had to be 
signified, but so many questions were raised that there 
ensued appreciable delay. One important result was that 
machine tools which had been earmarked for this work had 
to be released for other manufacturers, and when even- 
tually the Treasury did approve the scheme no machine 
tools were immediately available, and there was more delay 
while they were being accumulated. Because of these 
avoidable setbacks, and because, also, of subsequent manu- 
facturing disappointments in America, no Rolls-Royce 
engines made from American parts had been assembled 
at the time of the Armistice. 

Meanwhile, in the middle of December 1917, when a 
programme for an increase of the Royal Flying Corps to 

^ In June 191 7 a British War Mission under Lord Northcliffe was sent 
to the United States to co-ordinate and supervise the work of all British 
war missions. Lord Northcliffe remained in charge until November 1 91 7. 
When, in February 1918, Lord Reading arrived in America as Ambassador 
Extraordinary, the British War Mission was subordinated to him. 

^ A large number of American firms undertook the work, notable among 
them being F. B. Stearns & Co., of Cleveland, Ohio; the Taft-Pierce 
Manufacturing Co.,of Woonsocket; and the H. H. Franklin Manufacturing 
Co., of Syracuse. 


a total of 240 service squadrons was drawn up, it was 
specified that approximately one-third of these squadrons 
would be equipped with Rolls-Royce or Liberty engines, 
one-third with the B.R.2, and the remainder with Hispano- 
Suiza, Sunbeam, or B.H.P. engines. Because of the great 
importance of the Rolls-Royce engine in the new pro- 
gramme, it was decided to form a separate section of the 
Engine Supply Branch to deal exclusively with Rolls- 
Royce production and, at the same time, a number of 
Government-controlled firms were placed at the disposal 
of the section to be used to assist the Rolls-Royce com- 
pany. Among them were the Clement Talbot works, the 
National Shell Factory at Derby, and a part of the Dudley 
National Projectile Factory. The arrangement was that 
Rolls-Royce should be looked upon as the principal con- 
tractors with full responsibility for the placing of sub- 
contracts. Thus the suggestions for a central factory put 
forward by Mr. Claud Johnson in June 191 6 were be- 
latedly adopted. 

Although the production output necessary for the fulfil- 
ment of the final air expansion programme of the war had 
not by a long way been approached before the armistice, it 
should be set on record that 6,554^ splendid engines manu- 
factured by the Rolls-Royce Company were delivered to the 
services during the war, a greater number than was produced 
by any other British firm. In addition there was all the 
business of repair, including the supply of great quantities 
of spare parts. The works complement of the Rolls-Royce 
factories in October 191 8 was 8,342 hands, with a dilution 
ratio of 39 per cent.^ 

The Liberty Engine 

When America entered the war she was in a state of 
unreadiness and had to face and overcome many of the 
same sort of difficulties as Britain had had: furthermore, 
much of the supply of essential raw material was already 

^ 4,080 Eagles (250-375 h.p.); 1,969 Falcons (190-250 h.p.); 205 Hawks 
(75-90 h.p.); 200 Renault; and 100 R.A.F. 

^ This may be compared with the Siddeley Deasy Company, who were 
producing the B.H.P. with a dilution ratio of 28 per cent. 


taken up by the Allies. We are here concerned with the 
Liberty engine, on the supply of which Britain came to 
place great reliance for her programme of bombing 
squadrons for the offensive against German industrial 
centres. The design of the Liberty engine was begun at 
the end of May 191 7, and the first standardized eight- 
cylinder model was run on a bench test on the 23rd of 
July, and flown in an aeroplane on the 20th of August 
1917. Representations by General Pershing on the 13th 
of July, and demands for increased horse-power, led to the 
abandonment, in December 191 7, of the eight-cyhnder 
type in favour of a twelve-cylinder model vv^hich had been 
designed about the same time. The first experimental 
twelve-cylinder Liberty had passed a fifty-hour bench test 
on the 25th of August 191 7, and had been flown in a D.H.4 
in October.^ Then the trouble began. The schedules of 
production had continuously to be scaled down. On the 
1st of November 191 7, for example, it was estimated that 
fifty-five engines would be delivered in that month, that 
280 would be forthcoming in December, and that the rate 
of output would expand rapidly until, in May 191 8, a 
monthly figure of 4,800 would be reached. Total de- 
liveries of Liberty engines were, according to the Novem- 
ber 191 7 schedule, to reach a figure of 9,420 by the end 
of May 191 8. In fact, up to the 25th of May 191 8, no 
more than 1,100 of the engines had been produced. 

The causes of the disappointment were various, but 
they were not dissimilar from what we had ourselves 
experienced. A major difl&culty was a lack of tools, jigs, 
gauges, &c., while another was the amount of modifica- 
tion made in the design. One manufacturer, for instance, 
reported that 1,022 changes had been made in the design 
between September 191 7 and February 191 8. Neverthe- 
less, if one discounts the optimistic forecasts, tribute must 
be paid to the achievement which produced 1,100 com- 
plete engines in a little less than twelve months from the 
time the original was designed. The production of the 

^ Rated at 314 horse-power on the original bench test, the twelve-cylin- 
der Liberty was raised to 395 horse-power in October, and to 450 horse- 
power in May 191 8. This represented a weight of i*8 lb. per horse-power. 


Liberty may be compared with that of the British Sun- 
beam Arab which was subject to comparable modifica- 
tions. This engine was designed in 1916, but by the end 
of 1918, after two years, only 1,195 had been deHvered. 

Before the end of 191 7 the Allied Governments were 
asking for Liberty engines in large numbers. The United 
States Navy Department also wanted Libertys, as did 
the American Army Ordnance Bureau for installation in 
tanks. That is to say the demands were widespread. By 
January 1918 the number of Libertys asked for by Britain 
had reached a total of 3,000. According to the original 
arrangements these were to be dehvered at the rate of 
500 per month, beginning in January 191 8. The first 
shipment of Liberty engines, however, was not made 
until March and they numbered ten. Twenty came in 
April, 175 in May, 225 in June, and 620 in July, and then 
deliveries stopped. 

Meanwhile, the British department of aeronautical 
supplies was sending representations to America, urging 
the completion of the contracts for 3,000, and seeking 
acceptance for new contracts for an additional 2,500. 
In anticipation that America would be able to make 
deliveries more or less in accordance with the schedules, 
arrangements had been made in Britain for the construc- 
tion of large numbers of D.H.9 bomber aeroplanes which 
were specially suitable for the Liberty. The failure to meet 
British requirements caused great anxiety, and many appeals 
were addressed to America, but it was as much as the 
Americans could do to meet their own clamant demands. 
The promise was made, however, that 750 Liberty engines 
would be deHvered each month in the first half of 1919.^ 

National Aircraft Factories 

When, in July 191 7, the Government decided to double 
the air services, it seemed to the Ministry of Munitions 

^ In a memorandum on man-power dated the 25th of September 1918, 
Mr. Winston Churchill said that Mr. Ryan, the U.S. Under-Secretary for 
Aviation, had informed him that the American Admiralty claimed absolute 
priority for Liberty engines. 'A great part of these precious engines', he 
said, 'on which the whole of our air offensive bombing programme de- 
'pends has, up to date, been swallowed up by American aviation.' 


that, because the productive capacity of the existing 
manufacturing concerns had reached something Hke a 
Hmit, developments of a nev^ kind must be initiated. Ex- 
perience in other branches of the Ministry showed that the 
most satisfactory producers of munitions of war were those 
who worked on a large scale, and it was eventually decided, 
therefore, not to pursue further the poHcy by which air- 
craft contracts were distributed among a very large num- 
ber of small producers, involving some tuition and much 
inspection for which not enough expert staif was available, 
but to concentrate instead on a few large units; in other 
words, to build and equip some National Aircraft Factories. 

Something of the kind had aheady been started for aero 
engines. In January 191 7 an arrangement had been made 
with the firm of Mitchell, Shaw & Company, Govern- 
ment contractors, by which Mr. Mitchell bought the 
works of the Goss Printing Company at Hayes in order 
that his firm might undertake a large contract for engine 
parts. The purchase and equipment money was provided 
by the Government, but a clause in the agreement stated 
that the factory would become the property of Mr. 
Mitchell at the end of the war on payment of a nominal 
sum of ;^ioo. The Mitchell, Shaw Company were to 
supply the engine parts at cost, and it was calculated that 
this arrangement would ensure a total saving of some 
^200,000, that is to say, about double the original cost 
of the factory to the Government. The arrangements 
entered into with Mr. Mitchell, however, were terminated 
in October 191 7 when full control of the Hayes Factory 
passed to the Ministry of Munitions. 

At the same time the Ministry decided to proceed with 
its intention to construct and equip other factories. Sanc- 
tion was obtained to spend ^1,500,000 on three factories, 
each of which was to have a productive capacity of 200 
medium-sized aeroplanes each month. Sites were chosen 
at Waddon (Croydon), Aintree (Liverpool), and Rich- 
mond (London). The factories were to be managed by 
Holland, Hannen, & Cubitt, Ltd., by the Cunard Steam 
Ship Company, Ltd., and by the Sopwith Aviation Com- 
pany respectively, but the last-named firm eventually 


decided to remain independent and the Richmond project 
was therefore abandoned and, instead, a partly built factory 
at Heaton Chapel (Manchester) was taken over for manage- 
ment by Crossley Motors, Ltd. 

In November 191 7 the policy was extended. The motor 
works of Clement Talbot, Ltd., were fully acquired for the 
repair of Rolls-Royce engines, those of the Motor Radia- 
tor Manufacturing Company at Greet and Sudbury for 
the manufacture and repair of radiators,^ and the premises 
of a cinema firm (Bohemia, Limited) at Finchley for the 
production of balloons. In the summer of 191 8 kiln works 
at Lancing and at Swindon were taken over for drying 
aeroplane timbers. Thus the Government during the war 
became directly responsible for a number of national air- 
craft undertakings which, for convenience, may be tabu- 
lated as shown on the following page. 

The excursion of the Government into the aircraft 
industry must, so far as it concerns the manufacture of 
aeroplanes, be written down as a. failure. Expenditure 
was often lavish, and the control exercised was lax, con- 
fused, and confusing. The figures for production expen- 
diture which are given in the table err on the side of 
modesty. Materials were mostly supplied by or through 
the Ministry of Munitions. There were many difficulties 
about ascertaining, for accounting purposes, the prices 
of such materials and of services rendered. When the 
accounts came to be closed it was decided to enter 
all unpriced items as free issues, and in consequence 
the true expenditure, and the cost, therefore, of the 
aircraft produced at the national factories, can never be 
known. The reasons for the failure were many, a notable 
one being the inexperience of the factory managers in 
aircraft work. Other causes derived from the precipitate 
way in which the initial arrangements were made. A 
Ministry of Munitions document dealing with the national 

^ The National Radiator Factories, Greet and Sudbury, proved highly 
successful. They were already well established when taken over, and the 
factory management was allowed to recruit and train its own employees. 
The management also kept accounts in the same way as a private company 
and continued to tender for Government radiator contracts. 



[CH. II 

(Aeroplanes, Engines, Balloons, i^c.) 




Expenditure to 

March igio. 




{b) , 







When Produc- 
tion began. 

Total Output to 
March igig. 

National Aircraft 
Factory, Waddon. 
(N.A.F. I.) 

D.H.9 Airframes 

and spares. 
Interrupter gears 





March 1918 

241 Airframes. 
3,000 Interruptor 

National Aircraft 

Heaton Chapel. 

(N.A.F. 2.) 

D.H.9 and D.H. 10 






January 1918 

326 Airframes. . 

National Aircraft 
(N.A.F. 3.) 

Bristol Fighter 





March 19 18 

126 Airframes of 
which 36 had 
been delivered up 
to ist October, 

National Balloon 
Factory, Finchley 

Cacquot and 
'Nurse' balloons 




April 1918 

118 beilloons. 

National Aircraft- 
engine Factory, 
Ladbroke Grove, 
(Clement Talbot, 

Repair of Rolls- 
Royce engines. 


r ^^^ 





January 191 8 

608 engines re- 
paired (Approxi- 
mate value, 

National Aircraft- 
engine Factory, 

Construction of 
parts for Clerget, 
Hispano, B.R.i. 
and B.R.2, &c., 





January 191 7 

Various engine 
parts and spares 
to the estimated 
value of 

National Radiator 

Greet and Sud- 

Construction, sal- 
vage, and repciir 
of aircraft 




January 19 18 

6,297 Radiators. 
15,889 lb. Tubes. 
384 Shutters. 

National Timber- 
Drying Kilns, . 



(Managed by 
G.W.R. Co.) 
(Managed by 
L.B. and S.C. 
Rly. Co.). 

July 1918 
July 1918 

9,800 cubic feet of 

5,000 cubic feet of 

aircraft factories says that 'the clamour for increased out- 
'put made it impossible to wait for more economical 
'methods'. The Ministry cut red tape to the minimum 
and made flexible arrangements with its agents with the 
sole object of hastening production. Unfortunately, the 
Ministry had no effective check upon what was being done, 

I9I7-I8] MAN POWER 57 

and the confused direction continued until July 191 8, 
when a new branch, the National Aircraft Factories De- 
partment, was established in the Ministry, under Mr. 
Alexander Duckham, responsible for the discharge of all 
administrative duties connected with output, efficiency, 
finance, labour, &c. 

Production at the factories began much later than had 
been anticipated, and once the production stage had been 
reached the rate of progress fell far short of what had been 
allowed for. It is possible that had the war continued into 
late 1 91 9 or 1920 the national aircraft factories would 
have justified themselves in the matter of output, costs 
of production, and general efficiency. That is as may be. 
What is certain is that the factories were slow and costly 
to get started, and what is more than probable is that the 
same amount of money and energy expended upon the ex- 
tension of existing private concerns would have brought 
quicker and larger returns. It would be unwise to make 
too much play with figures, which can be dangerous 
symbols, but it may be said that each aeroplane made by 
the Government in its own factories cost an unreasonably 
higher sum than similar aircraft bought from private manu- 
facturers. Each Bristol Fighter produced at Aintree, for 
example, would appear to have cost at least ^'5,000, whereas 
the contemporary contract price, with private makers, was 
about ^1,350. If, in addition, the amount expended on 
Aintree on capital account was apportioned between the 
aeroplanes produced in the factory the figure of ^5,000 
would be doubled.^ 


The outbreak of war in 1914 had an immediate dis- 
turbing effect on industry. Enterprise gave way to 

^ The Controller of the National Aircraft Factories Department stated 
in May 1919: 'It is regretted it has been found impossible to supply a 
'schedule showing the capital expenditure of the Factories. It does not 
'appear to have been the business of any one Ministry Department or 
'authority to keep complete records of the amounts so expended, and all 
'efforts to obtain reliable figures have so far failed. . . .' Apparently it was 
possible, later, to arrive at figures for capital expenditure, and the figures, 
as finally decided, are incorporated in the table. 


caution, many men lost their employment, and there was 
a widespread feeHng that the working classes would suffer 
much distress. Local authorities were urged by Whitehall 
to expedite plans for pubHc works, and patriotic organiza- 
tions were formed to give assistance to the unemployed, 
but it came to be reahzed after a few months that the need 
for labour for munitions of war, and to replace men volun- 
teering for service with the armed forces, would more than 
offset the displacement of workers in discontinued in- 

In the beginning it was not difficult for the armament 
firms to obtain such additional labour as they needed, but 
by the end of 1914 they were complaining that the supply 
of trained workers was nearing exhaustion. The main 
cause was the free enhstment of skilled men in the ser- 
vices. By the end of October 1914 the engineering trades, 
for example, had lost 12-2 per cent, of all pre-war workers: 
this figure had increased to 15-4 per cent, by February 
1915, and to 19*5 per cent, by July of the same year. 

Some attempt to control the recruitment of expert 
labour was made in December 1914, when the War Office 
instructed recruiting officers to reject men from armament 
and other specified trades. About the same time the prob- 
lem was considered by the Committee of Imperial Defence, 
and early in January 1915 Mr. A. J. Balfour, one of the 
members of the committee, wrote a paper entitled the 
Limits of Enlistment m which he pointed out that the suc- 
cess of the appeal made by Lord Kitchener, the Secre- 
tary of State for War, for military recruits had raised the 
question whether there was 'any Hmit beyond which, in 
'the interests of a country as a fighting fozuer^ enlistment 
'might not have to be carried'. Apart from the produc- 
tion of war materials, he said, no man essential for the 
railways, the mercantile marine, for collieries, or for the 
civil service, could be spared. In other words, there were 
many citizens physically fit to fight, and no doubt willing 
to fight, who must not be allowed to do so. So much was 
obvious, but were there other classes to which the same 
remarks might apply? For convenience he would omit 
all reference to anything outside immediate material 


requirements, for example, to public order or to national 
credit. It was certain that we must make enormous im- 
ports of food and raw materials, and probably of munitions 
of war, and we must, therefore, make immense foreign 
payments, which could be done by borrowing abroad, by 
selling securities, or by exporting goods. The last named, 
he held, was the one practicable and desirable way, and it 
followed that all enlistments which would cripple indus- 
tries producing for export, or for that part of the home 
market in which any diminution of output would have 
to be made good by importation, would weaken the 
general fighting efficiency of the nation. 

It is probable that serious attention would have been 
given to the statesmanHke memorandum of Mr. Balfour, 
and that the Government would have set up some com- 
mittee to deal with questions concerning the allocation 
of man-power, had it not been for the powerful opposi- 
tion of Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War. 
When the subject was debated by the Committee of Im- 
perial Defence on the 27th of January 191 5 Lord Kitchener 
said that the demands for labour to satisfy Mr. Balfour's 
propositions, or others like them, might prejudice recruit- 
ing more than at first sight seemed likely. He was opposed 
to any system which meant the rejection of a willing re- 
cruit. What Lord Kitchener said at this stage of the war 
carried so much weight that argument was apt to be 
dulled, and the result was that the meeting contented itself 
with passing a 'conclusion' as follows: 'Employers of labour 
'and trade unions should be appealed to to co-operate as 
'far as possible, having regard to the special conditions of 
'particular trades, to secure the employment of men in- 
'eligible through age or other reasons to become recruits, 
'and of women in place of eHgible men who may be taken 
'as recruits.' 

The view of Lord Kitchener, that workers who volun- 
teered should be helped to enlist, made it impossible 
for effective restrictions to be placed upon recruiting 
officers. Nor was any check supplied by outside influences. 
On the contrary, skilled workers who remained at their 
posts, especially those who appeared young and physically 


fit, were often insulted in the streets and they were also 
taunted in some sections of the press. The necessity for 
an enormous expansion in munitions production did not 
become known to the general public until long after it 
had been appreciated by the Government, and it was the 
responsibiHty of the Government, therefore, to give a 

In the early part of 191 5 there was industrial unrest, 
mainly because an increase in the cost of living had not 
been balanced by higher wages. By this time the demand 
for many kinds of labour had outstripped the supply, and 
the workers were well aware of the strength of their bar- 
gaining position, but they were also responsive to the 
appeal to patriotism. It seemed, however, that employers 
and merchants were not being discouraged in any effective 
way from exploiting the needs of the nation, and as the 
workers became convinced that no real attempts would 
be made to curb employers generally, they apparently 
saw no reason why they themselves should not join in 
the scramble for a bigger share of the increasing national 

The problem of unrest was discussed, in March 1915, 
at a conference between representatives of the workers, 
led by Mr. Arthur Henderson, and members of the 
Government and of the service departments. An agree- 
ment was ultimately reached by which those who spoke 
for the trade unions undertook to advise their members 
against any stoppages of work in factories producing war 
materials, while those who spoke officially pledged the 
Government to Hmit the profits of all important firms 
engaged on war work. It was, however, one thing to draw 
up paper conclusions and another and different thing to 
make them effective. Three months passed before the 
pledge to limit profits was given legislative sanction and in 
the time of waiting many labour disputes arose. 

In May 19 15 came the revelation in The Times about 
the shortage of shells at the front which led to the recon- 
struction of the Government and to the setting up of the 
Ministry of Munitions, with Mr. Lloyd George as first 
minister: the Act creating the ministry received Royal 


assent on the 9th of June 191 5. The Minister of Muni- 
tions enjoyed wide powers, defined, so far as they affected 
labour, by the statutes known collectively as the Munitions 
of War Acts, 191 5-1 7. The main Act, which gave the 
Minister comprehensive powers to organize the skilled 
labour of the country for war production, became law on 
the 2nd of July 1915. 

At a conference held at Boulogne in June 191 5 the 
French military representatives had talked to Mr. Lloyd 
George of the need for heavy guns and howitzers. In the 
conditions of trench warfare, they had said, heavy pieces, 
of six-inch calibre or upwards, firing high explosive shells, 
were as necessary as field guns. To equal the combined 
German and Austrian output of ammunition the French 
calculated that the Allies would have to produce a total of 
I f million shells per week. ^ British General Head-quarters 
in France endorsed the conclusions reached as a result of 
the Boulogne conference, and Sir John French, the com- 
mander-in-chief, accordingly submitted a statement show- 
ing what his requirements would be for heavy guns in 
support of a British force calculated to reach an ultimate 
strength of fifty divisions. When the statement was for- 
warded by the War Ofiice to the Ministry of Munitions 
a request was appended that enough heavy guns should be 
included to equip an additional twenty divisions, and that 
an adequate allowance should be made also for wastage 
and for reserves. This decision to raise, equip, and main- 
tain a total force of seventy divisions placed all problems 
of industrial organization and of man-power on an entirely 
new plane. The expanded programme for munitions out- 
put required the immediate release from military service 
of 100,000 skilled workers who must be replaced, and the 
creation of new divisions would call for a total recruitment 
of I J milHon men. 

It was the conviction of Mr. Lloyd George that compul- 
sory military service had become necessary, but his Govern- 
ment colleagues were not ready to go so far. Their view 
was that compulsion must be deferred until the volunteer 

^ At this time the British weekly output of shells was at the rate of 


system should have been given a final trial. Accordingly, 
on the nth of October 1915, Lord Derby v^as appointed 
Director of Recruiting, and he launched vi^hat was called 
the 'Derby scheme', by which voluntary recruitment 
entered upon its last phase. In a report to the Govern- 
ment in January 1916 Lord Derby revealed that 651,660 
single men, not starred as essential war workers, had 
failed to attest a wilhngness to serve. The Prime Minister 
therefore took steps to redeem a pledge he had made on 
behalf of the Government that single men would be called 
to the colours before the married, and he introduced a 
Military Service Bill which came into force on the nth 
of February 1916. 

Meanwhile Mr. Lloyd George, having failed for the 
time being to carry his wider policy of compulsory national 
service, had directed his great energy towards making 
better use of the labour available under the existing system. 
This, in effect, meant an organized 'dilution' in face of 
strenuous opposition from the craft unions. For years the 
unions had been influenced by fears of a glut of goods 
which, in their view, must lead to unemployment and to 
a general lowering of the standard of Hving of the workers. 
As a result they had spun a web of rules and customs to 
restrict output. The number of apprentices was strictly 
limited, there was an insistence that only skilled men might 
work certain machines, overtime was regulated, the lines 
of demarcation between processes were sharply defined, 
and men or women who had not entered in the prescribed 
way for progressive initiation through the mysteries of a 
craft were shunned. These conventions and others like 
them were based upon the principle that demand could 
not be sustained if supply was allowed to expand without 
let. In other words, the so-called 'ca'canny' policy of the 
trade unions derived from a wish to secure for the workers 
some benefit from the increasing efficiency of the machine. 
The policy, however, whether or not it might be well con- 
ceived for times of peace, was one which put many brakes 
upon the national effort in time of war, more especially 
in a war of attrition which had to be prosecuted with every 
resource of the country. We cannot here follow the various 


measures taken by the Minister of Munitions, but it may 
be noted that, as was perhaps inevitable, resistance to the 
dilution of labour was protracted and sometimes bitter. 
By the autumn of 1916 Britain had reached a serious 
stage in the development of her fighting strength. Each 
department of State had been concerned with its own 
special problems without much thought for the needs of 
other departments. The manufacture of munitions and 
miHtary equipment, naval and mercantile construction, 
the output of coal, the working of docks and railways, the 
supply of gas and electricity, the various branches of the 
export trade, the production and distribution of food and 
other necessaries, competed, together with the services, 
for the manhood of the country. Grave difficulties had 
arisen between the Ministry of Munitions and the War 
Office about the exemption of munition workers from 
military service. The Government had been compelled 
in August 1 916 to set up a Man-Power Distribution 
Board, with Mr. Austen Chamberlain as chairman, charged 
with the duty of settling questions which might arise 
between Government departments about the allocation 
or economic employment of man-power. In a report put 
forward by the Board in November 1916 it was stated 
that the army required an additional 314,000 men for 
general service by March 191 7, of whom no more than 
1 14,000 were likely to be obtained by medical re-examina- 
tion, through expiry of temporary exemptions, or by 
attainment of military age. It would be necessary, there- 
fore, to withdraw 200,000 exempted men from industry. 
The Board recommended that the Ministry of Munitions 
and the Admiralty^ should cancel the protection badges 
issued to able-bodied workers of military age under twenty- 
six years old, but there were also a number of provisions in 
accordance with which no fully skilled man would be called 
to the colours, and by which no one firm could lose more 
than a proportion of its operatives. 

' The Admiralty from the beginning had resisted interference with the 
labour at their disposal. It had been agreed, in October 1916, that inspec- 
tion and dilution in shipyards, and in the shops of firms engaged on marine 
engine work, should be the entire responsibility of the Admiralty. 


The recommendations of the Man-Power Board, which 
were strenuously opposed by the Ministry of Munitions, 
came at a moment when there was grave industrial unrest, 
fostered by a belief that the arrangements for allocating 
man-power were neither fair nor efficient. The centre of 
disquiet was Sheffield, where men in the engineering 
trades resented the way in which skilled workers were 
being drafted into the army at the same time as dilution 
by semi-skilled or unskilled men of apparently the same 
physical categories was in progress. The storm broke 
when a certain fitter had his badge taken away and had 
to join the army. The particular engineer shop stewards' 
committee, without the authority of its union, organized 
a strike which was to become effective if the fitter was not 
sent back. The strike was begun, in Sheffield and Rother- 
ham, on the i6th of November, and it involved tens of 
thousands of skilled workers who were joined, in sympathy, 
by men at Barrow on the i8th. On that morning, how- 
ever, the fitter, who had been released hurriedly from 
military service, showed himself in Sheffield at a meeting 
of the strikers and they thereupon decided to return to 

The strike trained a searchlight on the proposal put for- 
ward by the Man-Power Board that workers under the age of 
twenty-six should have their exemption badges withdrawn. 
In the end the Government refused to approve the recom- 
mendation and accepted instead a suggestion made by the 
Minister of Munitions that his department should seek, 
by direct negotiation, a working agreement with the War 
Office. An agreement was arranged, but it had not long 
been in operation before the mihtary authorities came to 
the conclusion that the army had no prospect of obtaining 
the men it required. On the 28th of November 1916 the 
military members of the Army Council were moved to 
address a memorandum to the Secretary of State for War 
with a request that it be laid before the Government. In 
the memorandum it was stated that it would be impossible, 
after April 191 7, to keep the armies in the field up to 
strength unless immediate steps were taken to introduce 
some system by which recruitment ceased to be hedged 

1916-17] NEEDS OF THE ARMY 65 

about with over-riding conditions and restrictions. It 
was recommended that the mihtary age should be raised 
to fifty-five years, and that all men up to that age should be 
employed on whatever services the Government deemed 
to be essential for the winning of the war. When the 
memorandum was considered by the War Committee, on 
the 20th of November, the adoption of compulsory national 
service was approved in principle for all men up to the age 
of sixty years, and a committee was appointed to work out 
the details. By the time, however, that the committee 
had completed its report, Mr. Asquith's Government had 
fallen. The new Coalition Ministry, under Mr. Lloyd 
George, decided not to proceed with the scheme, but to 
appoint instead a Director-General of National Service 
(Mr. Neville Chamberlain) and a Minister of Labour (Mr. 
John Hodge) to take over between them all the duties 
hitherto discharged by the Man-Power Board. 

Mr. Neville Chamberlain soon found himself entangled 
in the same mesh of restrictions as had imprisoned those 
who had handled the problem before him. He formed the 
opinion that the only way to maintain the strength of the 
army was to take men from exempted industries, and when 
he presented his first report, in January 191 7, he bluntly 
recommended that all men between the ages of eighteen 
and twenty-two should be made available for military ser- 
vice. This, the so-called ^clean-cut' proposal, was accepted 
by the Government, but they laid down a number of con- 
ditions which had the effect of making the cut anything 
but clean. So many types of workers were exempted as a 
result of the added conditions that Mr. Neville Cham- 
berlain had to report, a fortnight later, that the number 
of men it would be possible to recruit outside the exempted 
classes would be negligible. 

Meanwhile the Government had recorded a general 
decision that men fit for military service should be released 
for the army by the end of January as follows : 30,000 from 
agriculture, 20,000 from mining, 50,000 from munitions, 
and an unspecified number from the railways. On the 
13th of February 191 7 Dr. Addison, who had succeeded 
Mr. Montagu as Minister of Munitions in the new 

2504.6 V 


Government, warned the War Cabinet that if the de- 
cision to take 50,000 men from work on munitions was 
made effective the fall in output would be serious. As a 
result, yet another Government committee was appointed 
to investigate the probable effect on industry if men 
should be taken for the army in accordance with the 
general decision set out above. The members of the com- 
mittee were also instructed to confer with Sir Douglas 
Haig. In their report, presented at the end of March 
191 7, it was stated that to meet the full needs of the army 
it would be necessary to take 330,000 men from protected 
industries between April and July 191 7. It was clear to 
the committee, however, that if this number was in fact 
withdrawn the supply of essential war material would 
be endangered. The committee therefore recommended 
that a reduced number of 250,000 should be released 
during the four months, that they should be obtained by 
quotas from various specified sources (not including ship- 
building), and that a general schedule of protected occupa- 
tions should be drawn up to supersede all the existing 
arrangements covering exemption from military service. 

The new scheme, which was approved by the War 
Cabinet, was launched on a troubled sea. An attempt was 
in progress at the time to dilute labour in commercial 
firms not specifically engaged on war work, an extension 
of the dilution of labour which skilled workers resented. 
The unrest reached a climax at the beginning of May 
191 7, when 200,000 workers came out on strike, mainly in 
Lancashire, and before the strike had been settled one and a 
half million working days had been lost. The general feel- 
ing among the workers might be described as one of watch- 
ful suspicion, and it is perhaps no matter for surprise that 
the task of drawing up acceptable schedules of protected 
occupations proved impossible. The trade unions, with 
which protracted negotiations were conducted, imposed 
a condition in accordance with which all diluted labour 
in any given area must be taken for military service before 
apprentices or skilled men engaged on munitions work 
could be recruited. As a result of this, and of other 
restrictions, no more than 18,000 men had been released 

1917] A NEW MINISTRY e^ 

from munitions industries by the end of July 191 7, instead 
of 124,000 which the committee had estimated would 
represent the contribution of these industries towards the 
reduced number of 250,000 allotted to the army by the 
War Cabinet.^ 

Meanwhile the German campaign of unrestricted U- 
boat warfare, which had opened in February 191 7, had 
introduced new claims on the country's man-power. In 
April Britain lost half a million tons of merchant shipping, 
and the outlook had become so clouded that energetic 
action was essential wherever it might be expected to help 
defeat the U-boat. A great programme of rapid mercan- 
tile construction was set on foot, and at the same time, in 
order to economize shipping space, timber felling on a 
large scale was undertaken throughout Britain, and an 
agricultural programme was adopted which aimed to 
make the nation and the army less dependent upon im- 
ported food supplies. There were various other measures, 
and all of them together were responsible for large and 
imperative drains on man-power. 

At the beginning of August 191 7 the Government were 
impelled to set up a new Man-Power Committee, consist- 
ing of Lord Milner, Lieutenant-General J. C. Smuts, and 
Mr. G. N. Barnes, with full authority to settle, on behalf 
of the War Cabinet, in consultation with the departments 
concerned, all questions of recruitment and of man- 
power. The committee quickly decided that the recruit- 
ing organization should be embodied as part of the 
National Service Department, which, in consequence, 
was raised to the status of a Ministry. The new 
Ministry was to review the whole field of man-power ; to 
arrange for the transfer of workers from less important to 
more urgent national work; to propose lists of reserved 
occupations; to obtain men for the armed forces within 
the limits laid down by the Government and to determine 
their physical fitness; and was to arrange for the provision 

^ A report made to the War Cabinet in August 1917 stated that recruits 
coming forward during the year had been far below the estimated num- 
bers and were insufficient to replace the wastage involved in offensive 


of labour, male and female, to take the place, wherever 
necessary, of men recruited for the services. 

In August 1 91 7, also, a committee of the Munitions 
Council^ considered the munitions programme for 191 8. 
It was estimated that this would absorb the services of 
about 25,000 additional skilled men, of 58,000 unskilled 
men, and of 70,000 women. The greatest new demand 
would be for the aircraft industry, which would want 
10,000 of the skilled men, 40,000 of the unskilled, and 
50,000 of the women. It might have been possible for the 
Ministry of Munitions to make arrangements to supply 
the desired number of skilled workers without serious dis- 
location if there had not existed priority claims for labour 
by the two service departments. The new ship-building 
programme brought into being by the unrestricted U- 
boat campaign required an additional 12,500 skilled and 
67,500 unskilled hands, and the Board of Admiralty stood 
firm on the position that they could supply none of 
this labour by way of transfers from other Admiralty 
work. The Government had consequently instructed the 
Ministry of Munitions to release men of experience in 
marine engineering, and this ruling meant in effect that 
the Ministry would be responsible for supplying all the 
skilled men required by the Admiralty. The Ministry 
was also under an obligation to supply experienced workers 
to the War Office for service as artificers in technical units. 
The arrangement was that 6,000 of these men should be 
released by the end of November 191 7, and it seemed 
certain that the demand for artificers would be of an ex- 
panding kind. The Ministry of Munitions could see no 
way to obtain the men, especially the skilled workers, 
for the 191 8 munitions production programme unless it 
was relieved of its obligations towards the Admiralty and 
the War Office. In the result the obligations of the 
Ministry remained, and the tussle for man-power con- 

^ When Mr. Winston Churchill succeeded Dr. Addison as Minister of 
Munitions one of his first acts was to reorganize the administration into 
ten large units, each in charge of a head directly responsible to the Minister. 
Each head was a member of a standing Munitions Council, organized on 
the lines of the Board of Admiralty or Army Council. 


tinued through the winter until, in March 191 8, as shall 
be told, the whole problem was changed as a result of the 
German military offensive on the Western front. 

Enough has been said to show that hy the middle of 
1 91 7 the depletion of British man-power had reached a 
point when it had become difficult to find the labour for 
the existing programme of aircraft expansion. The reader 
is now in a position to appreciate the major impHcations 
of the Government decision of July 191 7 to double the 
air services. In particular, the low general priorities ac- 
corded the aircraft industries had a repeatedly hampering 
effect. For example, dilution of labour led to an expand- 
ing demand for jigs and gauges, but in June 191 7 the 
Ministry of Munitions was unable to produce a mere 
ninety- two tool makers urgently required for aircraft work. 
This scarcity of all-important tool makers continued, and 
in September, to meet outstanding demands for 203 such 
workers, the best endeavours of the Ministry could provide 
only the odd three. 

It was calculated by the Royal Flying Corps that the 
July programme which doubled the air services would 
require, apart altogether from the industrial side of the 
problem, about 17,000 pilots and 5,500 observers, who 
must be trained before the end of 191 8, and an additional 
61,000 mechanics. Furthermore, it was imperative that 
work on thirty-five new aerodromes, each to accommodate 
three or four squadrons, should be started without delay. 
'I feel quite reasonably confident', wrote the Director of 
Recruiting in the middle of July 1917, 'that we will be 
'able to find all the men required for the Royal Flying 
'Corps, but it is quite certain that this large expansion 
'of the Flying Corps personnel will affect infantry drafts, 
'and further it will only be possible to meet the R.F.C. 
'requirements for skilled men if all other demands for men 
'of the same trades are kept within the lowest possible 
'limits, and if steps are taken to see that the men of these 
'trades who go to other Corps are really required at their 
'trade and are really employed in such a way that their full 
'skill is utiHzed.' 


One method adopted to obtain some of the men re- 
quired was the appointment by the War Office in July 
of a Dilution Officer whose duty was to examine the 
air service stations at home and to report upon possible 
savings of skilled labour. It was soon apparent, however, 
that an investigation of the kind needed was too much 
for the judgement and responsibility of one officer, and 
in the following month he was replaced by a board consist- 
ing of a president, an assistant, a medical officer, and a 
trade dilution officer. The Board, which visited seventy 
air stations, submitted three interim reports, and a final 
report dated the i6th of November. In the squadrons at 
home the Board found that the engine litters were already 
diluted to a point which was dangerous. 'The fact must 
be remembered', the final report said, 'that the mistakes 
made by these men through lack of skill result in the 
destruction of valuable machines, and probably also the 
loss of pilot and observer. From the dilution point of 
view it should be realized that the work carried out by 
the Royal Flying Corps cannot be compared with any 
other technical branch of the army, as in the latter cases 
it is almost always possible to retrieve the work of bad 
workmanship as the material is on the ground. In the 
case of an aeroplane in nearly every instance failure 
means destruction.' The members of the Board were 
impressed by the degree in which the expansion of the 
air services depended upon the recruitment of women. 
They calculated that about 30,000 women must be pro- 
vided at home, and they said that the sooner the v/omen 
were recruited and trained the better because the demand 
for men vv^ould thereby be lessened. The Board had been 
made aware that lack of suitable accommodation was re- 
tarding the employment of women, and they urged that 
this matter should receive immediate attention. 

Women in the Services 

In view of the importance attached to the recruitment 
of women it will be of interest to review briefly the story 
of their association with the armed forces. In the first 
year of the war women wxre mainly employed as nurses, 


although there were also a number of female shorthand 
typists. In 191 5, owing to the inexperience of recruits 
and to a shortage of trained cooks, food, though good 
and plentiful, was often badly prepared and served, and 
this led the Marchioness of Londonderry to suggest in 
July that a Women's Legion should be created to help 
the army with its cooking and cleaning. The V/ar Office 
agreed, as an experiment, to substitute women for men in 
convalescent camps, where cooking and similar domestic 
services were provided by soldiers. The first party of 
women recruits was taken by Miss L. C. Barker to the 
Dartford convalescent camp in August 19 15, and their 
value was proved in a way Vv^hich led to an early extension 
of the arrangement, first to other convalescent camps and 
then, in the spring of 191 6, to general military camps at 
home. In 191 6 women were also employed to drive ser- 
vice motor transport, and in February 191 7 this activity 
received formal sanction when the War Office laid down 
the conditions of service for women drivers in the Royal 
Flying Corps and in the Army Service Corps. 

In January 191 7 a report was submitted to the War 
Office by an officer who had examined the possibilities 
of economizing man-power with the armies in France, 
urging that women should be substituted for men in every 
suitable occupation outside the front-line fighting area. 
Those soldiers released who were not of first-class physical 
fitness might be sent back to England to take the place of 
men of a higher physical category who would thereby be 
made available for front-line service. The report stated 
in particular that in the aircraft depots in France there 
appeared to be great scope for the replacement of category 
'A' men by women. After much discussion an Army 
Council Instruction was signed in March 191 7 setting 
' out the terms and conditions of service for women, in 
substitution for men, in specified occupations along the 
lines of communication, and at the bases, in France.^ 

^ The classes of employment specified were: {a) clerical, typist, short- 
hand typist; {b) cooks, waitresses, and domestic staff; {c) motor transport 
service; {d) store-keepers, checkers, and unskilled labour; {e) telephone and 
postal service, and (/) miscellaneous services. 


The next step was taken on the yth of July 191 7, when 
an Army Council Instruction expounded a scheme for 
the organization of a Women's Army Auxiliary Corps 
(W.A.A.C.). Enrolment was to be for one year, or for 
the duration of the war, whichever proved the longer 
period, and recruits were required to say whether they 
would be willing to serve overseas. Women candidates 
for employment in the Royal Flying Corps, except photo- 
graphers, were called upon to produce certificates of effi- 
ciency in their class. If they could not produce certificates, 
but were otherwise considered to be generally suitable, 
they were invited to undergo a course of instruction, at 
their own expense, with a firm approved by the War 
Office. The officer class in the corps was divided into con- 
trollers, who corresponded to staff officers, and into ad- 
ministrators, who might be likened to regimental officers. 
Forewomen and assistant forewomen approximated to 
non-commissioned officers.^ 

The process of absorbing women into the Royal Flying 
Corps proved to be slow, partly because there was a dearth 
of acceptable recruits, and partly because little of the exist- 
ing accommodation was considered suitable. The latter 
difficulty, which was general, led, in December 191 7, to a 
reorganization of the W.A.A.C. into two branches, {a) 
mobile and (h) immobile. The former included all women 
who were liable to be moved as required for service any- 
where at home or overseas, vv^hile the latter was made up 
of women locally employed who could continue to live at 
home. Further regulations signed in June 191 8 changed 
the name of the corps to that of Queen Mary's Army 
Auxihary Corps (Q.M.A.A.C.). 

Meanwhile, in September 191 7, on account of the criti- 
cal nature of the man-power situation, it had been judged 
necessary to extend the employment of women, wherever 
possible, to the navy. Reports from home stations, in- 
cluding those of the Royal Naval Air Service, were called 
for, and towards the end of the year Dame Katherine 
Furse, the commandant of the Voluntary Aid Detachment 

^ Mrs. Chalmers Watson, J\I.D., was appointed Chief Controller, and 
Mrs. H. C. I. Gwynne-Vaughan, Chief Controller in France. 


(V.A.D.) Corps, was appointed to organize a corps of 
women for naval work. On the 4th of February 191 8 
Admiralty Weekly Orders were issued giving the regula- 
tions for the formation of a service to be known as the 
Women's Royal Naval Service (W.R.N. S., or, colloquially, 
Wrens') : Dame Katherine Furse was appointed director. 
Like its sister military service the W.R.N. S. was organized 
as two branches, mobile and immobile. 

When the Royal Air Force was formed on the ist of 
April 191 8 it became necessary to constitute a separate 
corps for women — the Women's Royal Air Force — to which 
those already employed with the air arm in the W.A.A.C., 
the W.R.N. S., or the Women's Legion,^ might transfer 
at their will. The new service began with 6^ officers and 
6,738 other ranks transferred from the W.A.A.C., with 
46 officers and 2,821 ratings from the W.R.N. S., and with 
496 drivers from the Women's Legion. Lady Gertrude 
Crawford was appointed first Chief Superintendent of the 
Women's Royal Air Force, and was succeeded in May by 
the Honourable Violet Douglas-Pennant with the title of 
Commandant. This officer had to deal with the multi- 
tudinous difficulties, many of them of a novel kind, attend- 
ing the rapid organization of a new service. She was 
succeeded, in September 191 8, by Mrs. H. C. L Gwynne- 
Vaughan who, at the time of the Armistice, had under 
her control about 25,000 women. No members of the 
Women's Royal Air Force served overseas while the war 
was still in progress. A number of women saw service, 
towards the end of the war, in the aircraft engine repair 
shops at Rouen, but they had been posted as members of 
the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps and they were allowed 
to continue without transfer to the new service. In October 
191 8 arrangements were made for a contingent of the 
Women's Royal Air Force to join the Independent Force 
in France for clerical, domestic, and stores duties, but 
hostilities ended before the women could leave. Their 
chance came, however, in the spring of 191 9 when they 
were called upon to take the place of men anxious to be 

^ Women transport drivers attached to home Royal Flying Corps units 
were enrolled as members of the Women's Legion. 


demobilized. The first draft went overseas, to France, in 
March 191 9, and a second contingent joined the army of 
occupation at Cologne in the following month. Their 
arrival in Germany caused interest and speculation. Under 
the leadership of Mrs. Gwynne-Vaughan, however, the 
women had acquired a high sense of discipline and a pride 
of service, and their presence and efficiency soon came to be 
taken for granted. Many of the women took so kindly to 
service life that they hoped a place might be found for 
them in the permanent establishment in the Royal Air 
Force. The drastic reduction of the force after the war, 
however, left no room for them^, and the disbandment of 
the Women's Royal Air Force had been completed by the 
end of 1920.^ 

Royal Air Force Nursing Service 

It will be appropriate to make brief reference here to 
the Royal Air Force Nursing Service which was formed in 
June 191 8. The staff served at first in the sick quarters at 
various stations in England and Scotland and at convales- 
cent centres. Towards the end of 191 8 Royal Air Force 
nurses replaced Army nurses in the hospitals at Blandford 
and at Hampstead. In 1919 and again in 1920 the question 
of amalgamating the Royal Air Force Nursing Service with 
the Army Nursing Service was considered as an economy 
measure, but the decision was that no saving would result, 
and the service therefore retained its identity. In January 
1 92 1 it was established as a permanent branch of the Royal 
Air Force, and in June 1923 became Princess Mary's Royal 
Air Force Nursing Service. 

Man-Power Committee 

It has been told how a committee, afterwards called the 
War Priorities Commiittee, was set up in September 191 7, 
when investigations by Lieut enant-General J. C. Smuts 

^ An account of the Women's Royal Air Force, and of the life of 
those who served in it, is contained in Women of the Royal Air Force, bv 
A. Chauncey. Life in the Immobile Branch is recounted in Eight Months 
with the JVomen^s Royal Air Force, by Gertrude A. George. See also an 
appendix — 'The Women's Royal Air Force' — contributed by Dame Helen 
Gwynne-Vaughan to Sir Sefton Brancker, by Norman Macmillan. 


revealed that the approved expansion of the air services 
could not be fulfilled.^ At its second meeting, held on 
the 28th of September 191 7, the committee approved the 
following recommendations : 

(i) that the reduced airship programme, and the aero- 
plane programme of 200 squadrons to be completed 
by the end of 191 8, should have priority after the 
shipbuilding,^ and 
(ii) that the completion of the two aircraft programmes 
was sufficiently important to justify a reduction in 
the production of other munitions, e.g. shells and 
The committee proceeded to act in accordance with 
these recommendations, but as the year neared its end and 
the casualties in the heavy fighting on the Western front 
continued to mount, it was clear to the Government that 
the man-power question had reached a state of crisis, and 
that a final careful stock must be taken of the human 
resources of the country and of their economic employ- 
ment. Accordingly a new Man-Power Committee was 
appointed with the Prime Minister as chairman. The com- 
mittee worked rapidly and a draft report was ready by the 
middle of December, 1917. The report was amended in 
minor particulars from time to time until the German 
offensive in France in the spring of 191 8 brought about 
such a drastic change in the whole position that the report 
was shelved. Meanwhile, however, many of its recom- 
mendations had been put into force. The view taken 
by the members of the committee was that ^the enemy 
in 191 8 will be so strong on the Western and Italian 
fronts as to preclude any reasonable probability of a 
decision on those fronts in favour of the Allies. The 
military advisers of the Allied Governments have recom- 
mended a defensive policy on the Western front, at any 
rate for the first half of 191 8. In these circumstances it is 

^ See Chapter I, p. 17. 

^ It is of interest that the German authorities, to ensure fulfilment of 
their air expansion programme drawn up in June 191 7 (called the American 
Programme)^ gave priority to aircraft after the submarine service. (See 
Vol. IV, pp. 273-5.) 



[CH. II 

'evident that the staying power of the AlHes must be safe- 
'guarded until such a time as the increase in the American 
'forces restores the balance of superiority decisively in their 
'favour. The safeguarding of staying powder involves not 
'only the maintenance of the armies, but of the nations, 
'and in both respects our Allies are becoming increasingly 
'dependent upon ourselves. This country has to bear the 
'principal burden of maintaining the sea-powder of the 
'Allies ; for dealing v^ith the enemy's submarines ; for ship- 
'building; for transport of food and supplies of all kinds for 
'the peoples, armies, and munition factories ; for the supply 
'of coal and many kinds of ordnance and munitions; and in 
'a great degree for the financial support of all our Allies. 
'Even the transport of American troops depends ultimately 
'to a considerable extent on maintenance of our ship- 

'ping \ 

The main recommendation of the committee stated: 
'The foUov^ing principles should be adopted in the 
'distribution of our man-power, whatever the number 
'of men available may be: 

\d) the fighting personnel requirements of the Royal 
'Navy and of the Air Services should have absolute 
'priority over all other services ; 
'(Z?) after the fighting personnel requirements of the 
■Royal Navy and Air Services, shipbuilding should 
'have priority over all other demands, and, after 
'shipbuilding, the construction of aeroplanes and 
'tanks ; 
\c) food production, timber felling, and the provision 
'of food storage accommodation, since their object 
'is to set free shipping, must be regarded in the 
'same category as shipbuilding; 
'(<^ the priority accorded to shipbuilding, food produc- 
'tion, and timber felling is subject to the general 
'supervision of the Minister of National Service for 
'the prevention of the waste of labour.' 
The committee also made twenty-seven other recom- 
mendations which need not be considered here. 

The priorities accorded to aircraft and personnel from 
the end of 191 7 made easier the way of expansion. 


In November 191 7 Major-General J. M. Salmond, the 
director-general of military aeronautics, estimated the 
number of other ranks still required to complete the sanc- 
tioned programme for 200 service squadrons. His table 
show^ed : 

Men. Women. 

Total establishment . . . 158,250 20,900 

Existing strength . . . 90,250 3>045 

Deficiency . . . 68,000 175855 

About the same time, Sir Douglas Haig, in order that 
timely provision might be made for future developments 
in the air, put forv^ard his programme of requirements up 
to the summer of 1919. For France (and Italy) he recom- 
mended the provision of a total of 1 13 squadrons, exclusive 
of the sixty-six squadrons v^hich it was proposed should 
be employed for long-distance bombing operations. The 
War Office suggested that the total number of service 
squadrons, including tv^enty-one shown as to ^meet 
eventualities', should be raised to 240. The approximate 
increase in personnel for the additional forty squadrons, 
maintenance, and training equivalents, was 2,360 officers, 
14,000 men, and 4,500 women, excluding allowance for 

There followed a vigorous comb-out in the army, but 
because the numbers of men of technical bent or training 
so obtainable were few, help was sought from General J.J. 
Pershing, the American Commander-in-Chief. It was 
arranged that some 15,000 American mechanics should 
be sent direct from the United States to England for 
service with Royal Flying Corps units. The trained British 
personnel thus released would be made available for service 
squadrons, whether formed or forming. While this arrange- 
ment was of immense help to the British, it also worked to 
the advantage of America, whose mechanics were enabled 
to complete their training under the most favourable con- 
ditions and with service-type aircraft. America agreed to 
maintain the strength of the attached mechanics, passing 
those who had gained full training to American air units 
in France, and replacing them by mechanics untrained in 


aeronautics.^ This American help reduced the estimated 
requirements for British mechanics to 67,000 to be spread 
over fourteen months. Of this number 1 8,400 were wanted 
hy the end of February 191 8, and so well did the endeavours 
to procure the men succeed with the advantage of priority 
that the number was actually exceeded by nearly 6,000. 

America and the Air War 

When America entered the war in April 1917 a three- 
year air programme was drawn up which was considered at 
the time to be ambitious. In the programme, allowance 
was made for a total production of 3,700 aircraft in 191 8, 
a number thought to be the maximum attainable. The 
whole American outlook, however, was changed as a result 
of a telegram received in Washington on the 26th of May 
1917 from M. Ribot, the French Premier, as follows: 

'It is desired that in order to co-operate with the French 
'Aeronautics, the American Government should adopt the 
'following programme : the formation of a flying corps of 
'4,500 airplanes — personnel and material included — to be 
'sent to the French front during the campaign of 191 8. 
'The total number of pilots, including reserve, should be 
'of 5,000 and 50,000 mechanicians. Two thousand planes 
'should be constructed each month, as well as 4,000 engines, 
'by the American factories. That is to say, that during the 
'six first months of 1918, 16,500 planes (of the last type) 
'and 30,000 engines will have to be built. The French 
'Government is anxious to know if the American Govern- 
'ment accepts this proposition, which would allow the 
'Allies to win the supremacy of the air.'^ 

The American authorities, with characteristic generosity 
of outlook, translated the telegram into a detailed pro- 
gramme of air development for which an appropriation of 
640 million dollars was taken. By the end of 1917, how- 
ever, the Americans had become anxious about the progress 

^ There was some delay in carrying out the arrangements. The 15,000 
should have been supplied by the 1st of March 1918, but on that date no 
more than 3,931 had arrived. Within a month, however, the number had 
grown to 10,819 and to 16,224 by the 1st of September 1918. America 
also supplied military labour for work on aerodromes and buildings. 

^ See T^he American Air Service, p. 66, by Captain Arthur Sweetser. 


being made, and it even appeared doubtful whether they 
would be in a position to provide the squadrons required to 
ensure aircraft co-operation with the estimated number of 
American troops which would be at the front in the summer 
of 191 8. The British authorities were willing at all times 
to place at the free disposal of America such lessons as they 
had themselves learned as a result of their long and some- 
times painful experience in connexion with the develop- 
ment of their own air-expansion programmes. They were 
glad, therefore, to have an opportunity, in the spring of 
191 8, to send to America a British aviation mission headed 
by Major-General W. S. Brancker. As a result of the 
mission it was arranged that a number of British flying and 
technical officers should be placed at the disposal of the 
American authorities in connexion with the fulfilment of 
their aviation programme. Another result was that the 
Production Department in America sent two representa- 
tives to Europe to confer with General Pershing. These 
contacts with realities led to a modified air programme, 
which was duly approved. Whereas the original programme 
allowed for 266 service squadrons, exclusive of long-range 
bombers, the new one, which it was hoped would be com- 
pleted by June 191 9, aimed at an inclusive total of 202 
service squadrons. 

The story of the intervention of America in the war con- 
tains some lessons of interest. We are not here concerned 
with the moral influence of her entry, admittedly incal- 
culable, nor with the naval and military aspects of the help 
she gave, which were of very great importance, but only with 
a strictly limited effect, that upon the British air services. 
The Central Powers, owing to the blockade, had been unable 
to look upon America as a source of supply, whereas the 
Allies, because of their command of the sea, had been able 
to buy freely. So far as concerns supply, therefore, it may 
be said that America was on the side of the Allies from the 
beginning. When, however, she began to organize forces 
of her own, subsequent to her declaration of war, she could 
do so only at the expense of the Allies in the early stages, 
even though great general benefits would ultimately accrue 
from American organization on a national scale. 


What America did, in effect, was to step suddenly into 
all markets equipped with absolute priorities. The supply 
of timber for British aeroplanes was immediately affected. 
The woods used were silver spruce, and what might be 
called spruce substitutes, namely, walnut, ash, poplar, 
mahogany, and other hardwoods : except ash and poplar, 
all this timber was imported. When war broke out in 
1914 there were good supplies of suitable timber in store 
in this country, but by October 191 6 a shortage was 
foreseen. It had then been agreed that the Admiralty 
should assume responsibility for buying all the timber 
required by Great Britain from abroad and for inspect- 
ing and shipping it, an arrangement which endured until 
October 1917. 

Of all the woods, silver spruce, light, strong, and resilient, 
which grew abundantly in the forests of Oregon and 
Washington, proved the most suitable for aircraft. The 
Allied Governments, competing against one another in 
the American market, through lumber brokers, had sent the 
price of spruce soaring, but their demands had led to 
the establishment of an industry of a kind, and supplies 
had been forthcoming in gradually expanding quantities. 
As soon as America entered the war she realized that, with 
the added competition for silver spruce necessary for the 
satisfaction of her own vast air programme, the industry 
could not be expected to develop at the speed and on the 
scale required without State help. The measures taken to 
control and to increase production were many,^ but the 
difficulties which had to be overcome were formidable, 
and, as demand kept expanding, supplies were always lag- 
ging behind, with the result that not much could be spared 
for the Allies. 

By October 191 7 the position had become critical so far 
as the British aeronautical industry was concerned. No- 
thing crossed the Atlantic in this month in satisfaction of 
outstanding Admiralty contracts and nothing again in 
November. The first shipment of general timber allocated 
to Britain by the American Aircraft Construction Board 
arrived in December, but it contained only ten standards 
^ See The American Air Service (Sweetser), ch, ix. 


of silver spruce. During the four months ending the 5th 
of January 191 8 no more than 150 standards of silver spruce 
and substitutes had arrived against British contracts for 
more than 40,000 standards. 

The existing stocks of suitable timber in Britain had to 
be allocated w^ith the most scrupulous attention, and wood 
v^hich v^as below specification had sometimes to be used. 
The position continued to be serious through the early- 
months of 191 8, and it was aggravated by the German 
offensive on the Western front. This led to an acceleration 
in the rate of flow of American troops across the Atlantic, 
with the result that no shipping could be spared for the 
transport of timber supplies. When timber shipments on a 
modest scale were resumed in May 191 8 it was found 
that some of the wood was unsuitable for aircraft con- 
struction. It was not until the autumn of 191 8 that 
the American authorities were being fully rewarded for 
the energy they had expended in the organization of the 
timber industry, and it then became possible to allot 
adequate shipments to Europe, but by that time Britain, 
which had evolved a suitable built-up spar and had also 
satisfactorily developed other sources of supply, had be- 
come less dependent upon American timber. The silver 
spruce failure was certainly serious, but the effect upon the 
output of British aircraft was less than might have been 
because that output, as we have seen, was mainly limited 
by the set-back in the production of engines. 

In a report which he submitted to the War Cabinet in 
September 191 8 Lord Weir pointed out that America 
could not be expected to provide any early help with 
regard to long-distance bombing. He explained that the 
Americans had only twenty-four mixed squadrons, for 
which the aeroplanes had mostly been supplied from 
European sources.^ If the American army engaged in an 
offensive on the Western front it must be expected that 
the American air service, which would be called upon to 
make good inevitable casualties, would continue to be 
weak for some time. 

^ The American Expeditionary Force was supplied with about 320 
British aeroplanes. 

2504.6 Q 


Effect of the German igi8 Offensive 

On the 23rd of March 191 8, two days after the German 
attack was launched against the British Third and Fifth 
Armies in France, the War Cabinet instructed the Minister 
of National Service to put forward immediate proposals 
for an increase of man-power for military purposes, and, 
as a result, a military service bill was prepared and intro- 
duced in Parliament by the Prime Minister on the 9th of 
April. It fixed the age limits for military service between 
18 and 50, and empowered the Government to cancel, by 
proclamation, certificates of exemption other than those 
granted on occupational grounds. The Bill was passed 
through Parliament in seven days and received Royal 
Assent on the i8th of April. Two days later the Govern- 
ment issued a proclamation which said that, except 
certain special classes, no Grade I men aged 19 and 
20 were to be retained after the 17th of May, and 
aged 21 to 23 after the 17th of June, by firms working 
for the Admiralty, Ministry of Munitions, or for the 
War Ofiice. On the other hand, discretionary powers 
about the retention of men was to remain with the Ad- 
miralty and the Ministry of Munitions subject to review 
by a committee, on which the department interested in a 
particular case was to be represented. The firms w^ere 
notified of the new procedure on the 25th of April and 
were told that every effort must be made to avoid loss of 
output, by rearrangement of works, by substitution, or by 
such other methods as w^ere open to them. If certain men 
were considered indispensable claims could be submitted 
for their retention. 

The Ministry of Munitions, as a result, was called upon 
to release men for the army, but it had also, at the sam^e 
time, to maintain military supplies, or even in some in- 
stances to increase them. That this could not be done was 
soon apparent. On the 1 2th of July Mr. Winston Churchill 
laid a memorandum before the War Cabinet in which he 
directed attention to the serious consequences which must 
result from the continued drain of skilled men from muni- 
tions production. He pointed out that since the beginning 


of the year 100,000 men, nearly all of them skilled, had 
had to be released by the Ministry of Munitions, and he 
pleaded that, with the changed conditions on the Western 
front, the time had come when the whole policy should 
be reconsidered. The American forces in Europe had 
expanded to a total of one million men, and it was clear 
that the real solution of the man-power problem lay in the 
speedy transportation to France of the great numbers 
which had been recruited in America, in their training and 
organization on the battle front, and in their equipment 
and supply. The first million who had come over, he said, 
had been equipped almost entirely by Britain and France. 
'But for the fact', he said, 'that we had been able to supply 
'them with artillery, machine-guns, rifles, trench mortars, 
'&c., and feed them with munitions of all kinds, no use in 
'the present crisis could have been made of this first 
'million' . The reports which he had received from America 
indicated that the American Army in France would be 
almost wholly dependent during 191 8 on British and 
French artillery production. In addition to what was 
needed for the Americans, and to meet requests for in- 
creased munitions for the British Expeditionary Force, 
there were, said Mr. Churchill, immense demands con- 
nected with the expansion of the Air Force. 'The aero- 
'plane engine programme had in the last two months fallen 
'off very seriously indeed, and the extremely good situation 
'which I was able to report to the Cabinet at the beginning 
'of the year no longer holds good.^ Last week the produc- 
'tion was only 688 against an estimate of 1,132. In one 
'firm making crankshafts for an urgently needed type of 
'aeroplane engine, they have already lost seven out of eight 
'highly skilled mechanics on one essential stage of manu- 
'facture. The consequent loss of crankshafts involved the 
'loss of twenty-five aeroplanes per week. . . . Once the 
'emergency of this summer has been surmounted, we 

^ Mr. Churchill had told the War Cabinet at the beginning of March 
that deliveries, as promised, led him to the conclusion that by the end of 
June 191 8 there would be a large stock of aeronautical material without the 
requisite man-power to handle it. The deliveries, however, as we know, 
fell far short of expectations. 


'ought not to rupture our munitions supply, particularly 
'our supply of modern vital appliances, for the sake of 
'adding 20,000 men or less to our army of over three 
million . . . .' 

A month later Lord Weir stated in a memorandum: 
'The engine position during the last three months has 
'been bad, and I am informed by Mr. Churchill, and I 
'fully believe it myself, that the "comb-out" in March is 
'largely responsible for disarranging the growth of out- 
'put which was proceeding fairly satisfactorily.' At the 
time this memorandum was written there were 4,200 
aeroplanes in store with no engines to go into them. 

The Ministry of Munitions did much in the way of 
training workers. An instruction scheme had been started 
at technical schools at the end of 191 5, but in September 
1 91 6 the need for something more was felt and factories 
were acquired to serve as schools where men could be 
given training, on modern machines, in the particular 
operations they would be required to do. To meet the 
heavy demands for semi-skilled operatives in 191 7 for 
aeronautical work the Ministry of Munitions greatly ex- 
tended its training facilities. Additional factories, with 
their full complement of tools, were acquired, and where 
no suitable factories could be had new buildings were 
erected and equipped. The output of semi-skilled workers 
from the Ministry's training factories increased as the war 
progressed and was of some help in reconciling contractors 
to dilution of labour within their works. ^ 

In January 191 7, in twenty-eight representative aircraft 
firms, there was a 19*6 percentage of dilution by women. 
By the middle of June the percentage, for women and 
boys, was 37*5, and by December 1917, 44 per cent. It 
would seem that this figure more or less marked a limit 
for the time being because the comparable dilution figure 
at the time of the Armistice was 46 per cent. 
JThe following table sets out particulars of the total 

^ Up to the end of the war the training sections of the Ministry of Muni- 
tions had supplied 14,834 hands for the aircraft industry. 


labour employed in the aircraft industry in Britain in 
1916, 1917, and 1918: 




No. of 



Per cent, 











3475 "2 

Propaganda among the Workers 
There were attempts during the war, which deserve 
mention for their general interest, to associate the workers 
with the operations at the front. The idea that men in 
protected industries were by way of being parasites, exor- 
bitantly rewarded, was one which some people of limited 
vision stubbornly maintained. The cleavage between the 
lowly paid soldier in the line, enduring unimaginable 
hardships and constant risks, and the able-bodied worker 
enjoying home comforts, was, in any event, well marked, 
and was one which might easily be made dangerously wide. 
Unhappily, in the early months of the war, the idea 
was officially encouraged, rather than discouraged, that it 
was the duty of the able-bodied skilled worker, as of any 
other, to get out of his workshop and into uniform. As a 
corollary, those who stayed at their posts were apt to be 
looked upon as shirkers, a fact to which their attention 
was drawn in various ways, subtle and blunt. One result 
was that the worker tended to dissociate himself from the 
war. He was outside the pale, and there was not released 
in him any exaltation of spirit, a matter to which a psycho- 
logist would pay attention. The workers as a whole, he 
might point out, suffered in some degree from a sense of 

We are a sentimental people and we are perhaps inclined, 
at any rate in the beginning, to conduct the ruthlessly 
realistic business of war in a sentimental way. It was 
sentiment, for instance, which led Lord Kitchener, whose 
vision was often remarkably clear, and who foresaw a long 
war, to kill Mr. Balfour's first attempt at a scientific 
evaluation of the country's man-power by his declaration 


that he was opposed to any system which rejected a wiUing 
recruit. We talk, with a feehng almost of pride rather 
than of shame, about 'muddling through', but we might 
be less complacent if we stopped to count the avoidable 
additional cost in lives and in wealth. As a nation we have 
moral courage, organizing ability, and great tenacity of 
purpose, but we are apt to be intellectually lazy, being 
content to wait upon facts from which, it must be ad- 
mitted, we are usually quick and shrewd to draw inferences. 
Thus, in war, we have always required time in which to 
develop our resources, and by good fortune and policy 
we have usually been able to obtain, at a cost, v/hatever 
time was necessary. It may be noted, in passing, that the 
development of air warfare has made it doubtful vv^hether 
time will ever again be purchasable to retrieve unpre- 

One result, then, of our characteristic method of making 
war was for a long time to divorce the worker from the 
soldier, and it may be that much of the unrest which 
threatened and disturbed war industries was fostered by 
the worker's feeling that he was a man apart. 

In any event, owing to the development of the machine, 
and to the growing division of labour, the processes per- 
formed by an individual workman tended to become drab 
and monotonous. In June 1916 Mr. Claud Johnson, the 
general managing-director of the Rolls-Royce Company, 
placed before the Air Board some suggestions for, as he 
called it, 'the encouragement of labour'. He referred to the 
colourless existence of a man always employed in making 
some small part of an aero engine, and said: 'He may never 
see the complete engine, a part of w^hich he makes. He may 
never hear the roar of the exhaust of the engine during 
its bench tests, and, much less, see it propelling a war- 
plane upwards. His imagination is not great, and it is 
difficult for him to realize that he is taking a part in the 
winning of the war. I suggest that he should be told that 
every 20th (or some such number) engine shall be fitted 
to an aeroplane which shall be called after his works, such 
as "Wolverhampton No. I", "Wolverhampton No. II". 
In reports of war planes the name and number of the 

1915-17] PROPAGANDA 87 

'planes should be quoted. Cinema views of aeroplanes 
'fitted with engines in the manufacture of which a sub- 
'contractor has taken part should be exhibited in the local 
'cinemas (films supplied by Air Board). And, lastly, men 
'employed on making air engines who keep a certain per- 
'centage of good time and do a certain percentage of over- 
'time should have presented to them badges which they 
'can wear as an indication that they have worked well 
'voluntarily towards the winning of the war. The badges 
'might take the form of stripes or wings on the arm so that 
'a man might gain and wear a number of them.' 

We need not concern ourselves with the details of 
Mr. Johnson's suggestions. All we need to note is that, 
speaking from great experience, he emphasized that it was 
desirable to give the worker a personal interest in the war. 

It happened that, in June 191 5, Lieutenant E. A. 
Ewart, an officer serving with the Royal Field Artillery 
in France, had published a book called Between the Lines^ 
over the name 'Boyd Cable'. The Ministry of Munitions, 
with the permission of the author, printed and distributed 
copies of the book to munition workers (an ultimate total 
of 100,000 was so disposed of), and the considered opinion 
of Ministry officials was that the book helped to create 
in the mind of the worker understanding and sympathy 
which made for a greater output. 

In February 191 7 Captain Ewart was invited to study 
the conditions of air fighting with a view to spreading 
propaganda among the workers in the aircraft industry. 
His 'terms of reference' were that what he wrote should 
be interesting and impressive of the fact that every aero- 
plane was wanted in the field. He spent some time with 
squadrons in the line, flying as he thought necessary, and 
then returned to England, where he toured the aircraft 
factories and gave lectures to the workers. Reports from 
manufacturers indicated that the talks had been of value, 
and many requests were made that similar ones should be 
given. Accordingly Captain Ewart spent alternate periods 
on the Western front and in England, where he talked to 
the workers of what he had seen, illustrating his lectures 
with lantern slides made from air photographs. 


A subsequent development was a series of letters written 
from the front to give information to factories about the 
operations of their products. There was, for example, the 
'Handle^ Page' letter, which told of some stirring incident 
in which this type of aeroplane was concerned, said a word 
or two about the importance of night-bombing, and con- 
cluded with a neatly expressed hope that the Handley 
Page workers were doing their utmost to increase output. 
The factory serial numbers of the particular aeroplanes 
were quoted, and the workers could therefore identify 
their product, a fact which gave all operatives something 
of a sporting interest in the arrival of the letters from the 
front. They were circulated in various ways. In many 
factories a roneo copy was given to the men because it 
was found that some of them liked to read the letter at 
home as evidence that they were doing important work. 
The more firmly the idea of importance became rooted, 
the more difficult it would be for the men to justify strikes 
or other interruptions of output. 

In the early part of 191 8 the propaganda activities 
were extended. A scheme was put forward which involved 
offices in London, and a panel of lecturers, and approval 
took the form of the establishment of a Lecture Branch of 
the Aircraft Production Department. A suggestion was 
made that authentic pictures of air fighting should be 
published, and Mr. Joseph Simpson, the artist, offered 
his services w^ithout fee. He went to France in May 1918 
and made his head-quarters at the Aeroplane Supply Depot 
at Bergues where he had a varied stock of aircraft to serve 
as models. He was given details of incidents considered 
suitable for painting, and when he had made his rough 
drawings he took them to the squadron to submit them 
to the criticism of the flying personnel who had taken 
part in the action depicted. On the finished picture the 
squadron markings and the factory serial numbers were 
inserted on the aeroplanes. The artist was at liberty to 
sell the first serial rights to an illustrated paper, but the 
copyright rested with the Aircraft Production Depart- 
ment which could, at its discretion, give prints away or 
sell them. What usually happened was that a brief story 


of the episode was added and that prints, bought by 
arrangement with the illustrated paper in which the pic- 
ture had appeared, were sent to the factories where the 
particular types of aeroplane were built, and to makers of 
the engines, magnetos, plugs, &c. Some firms bought 
many thousands of copies of those pictures which were of 
special interest to them and made their own arrangements 
about distribution. Incidents of naval air warfare were 
similarly painted by Mr. Charles Dixon, the marine artist. 
The pay envelopes of the workers in the various aircraft 
factories also came to be used to carry small propaganda 
pictures with a line or two of appropriate text. 

These belated war-time efforts to give the worker some 
appreciation of the importance of his personal contribution 
towards winning the war were good so far as they went, 
and tribute must be paid to the foresight of the Ministry 
of Munitions, and to the practical imagination of Colonel 
E. A. Ewart. Those who love truth do not care for propa- 
ganda because they are suspicious of its tendentious quali- 
ties. It may be that the propagandist can never tell the 
whole truth, but it is clear that, in the long run, the closer 
he gets to what is true the more successful he will be. 
The examples of which we have written have the merit 
that they told of actual happenings and that care was taken 
to ensure accuracy of detail. A nation goes to war to im- 
pose its will upon another nation. In this conflict of wills, 
propaganda, whether or not we approve of this method of 
making war, is certain to become a major weapon. 

Air Expansion Programmes 

During 191 8 various air programmes were put forward 
by the Air Council. The biggest was that for which the 
sanction of the War Cabinet was sought in July 191 8. It 
made up a total of 340 service squadrons of an average 
establishment of 20 aeroplanes.^ Government approval 
was never given because it was considered improbable that 
the requisite man-power could be made available. The 
programme was amended to make the total 328 squadrons, 

^ The existing programme was for a total of 292 service squadrons for 
which the War Cabinet had given approval in March 1918. 


but the Air Council was warned by Lieutenant-General 
J. C. Smuts, the chairman of the Air PoHcy Committee of 
the War Cabinet, that the men to maintain 328 service 
squadrons could not be supplied. This programme, how- 
ever, held the field, unofficially, until towards the end of 
October 191 8, when, as a result of the changed conditions 
on the Western front, the Air Council was of the opinion 
that every possible squadron should be put into the field 
by June 1919, even at the expense of subsequent develop- 
ments. The expansion programme was therefore reduced 
to a total of 275 service squadrons to be in the field by 
June 1 91 9. The war ended before this modified pro- 
gramme could be discussed by the War Cabinet. 

The position at the Armistice was as follows : there were 
on the Western front 86 squadrons,^ plus 10 with the In- 
dependent Force, and, in addition, 6 Independent Flights; 
in Italy, 4 squadrons ; in the Middle East, 14, plus I Flight ; 
on Home Defence in England and Ireland, 18 squadrons; 
on anti-submarine work in home waters, 3 7 ; in the Mediter- 
ranean, 15; and I squadron and 7 Flights with the Grand 
Fleet. That is to say, the Royal Air Force disposed of a 
total of 132 service squadrons plus 8 Flights with the 
armies and Independent Force, 3 squadrons and i Flight 
at Dunkirk, and 53 squadrons plus 7 Flights with the navy. 
Thus the programme of July 1917, which sanctioned a total 
of 200 military service squadrons, and allowed for doubling 
the strength of the Royal Naval Air Service, had not been 
approached by the Armistice. 

It is of interest to compare what Sir Douglas Haig had 
on the Western front at the end of the war, with the 
requirements as stated by him in June 1916. On the 15th 
of that month he had put forward a programme for a total of 
fifty-six squadrons to be in France by the early spring of 
191 7 'at the latest, and sooner, if possible'. At the same time 
he had asked for ten bombing squadrons for expeditions 'on 
'a large scale against objectives situated at a great distance. 
'So far as land operations are concerned it is possible that 
'such expeditions might give useful results if the time and 

^ This figure does not include three squadrons and one Flight, formerly 
naval, working in the area of the Belgian coast. 


'place for them be selected carefully in connexion with 
'special military requirements. Otherwise they might do 
'harm rather than good, and in any case they will always 
'be attended by considerable risk of loss in personnel and 
'machines.' As a result of the new situation created by the 
reorganization of the German air service and of the introduc- 
tion of enemy new type fighting aeroplanes in the autumn 
of 1916, Sir Douglas Haig had, in November 1916, added 
a request for twenty additional fighting squadrons. They 
were not to interfere with his June programme, except that 
they were to take precedence over the ten long-distance 
bombing squadrons. This brought the total of service 
squadrons required for employment with the armies in 
France to eighty-six^ If the former naval squadrons 
engaged on military duties are deducted, there were in 
France, at the Armistice, eighty-five military and in- 
dependent bombing squadrons and a few independent 
Flights. That is to say, that the comparatively modest 
programme of 191 6 had just about been fulfilled by 
November 1918. 

Importance of Reserves 

An analysis of some of the statistics for aircraft wastage 
during the war shows the importance of adequate reserves. 
To start a new squadron 100 per cent, of aircraft (that is, 
complete with engines) additional to establishment had to 
be provided in the first place. For example, a squadron of 
eighteen aeroplanes required six extra to cover wastage 
during mobilization and transit to France, six to go overseas 
as Expeditionary Force reserve at the same time as the 
squadron, and six m^ore for allotment to training units to 

^ The total number of service squadrons for all theatres was io8, but 
excluding the ten bombing squadrons. These were not definitely included 
in the War Office approved programmes presumably because, as stated in 
a minute by Sir David Henderson, 'No decision has yet been arrived at 
'as to whether the army or the navy is to be responsible for such operations, 
'and in view of the difficulties which confront us, it seems inadvisable to 
'expend energy on a project which the navy appear to be undertaking 
'with the assent of Government.' It was not until the June 1917 decision 
to expand the total Royal Flying Corps service squadrons to 200 that long- 
distance bombing was included. 


produce pilots for the squadron. Subsequently, to replace 
wastage and to build up a reserve, nine aeroplanes had to 
be provided each month, representing fifty per cent, of 
the squadron's strength. In general, the rates of v^astage 
allow^ed for were approximately as follows : 

Monthly wastage 

^ype and establishment. 


Single-seater fighter (24) 


Two-seater „ (18) 


Corps squadrons (18) . 


Bombers (18 or 10) . 


Home Defence squadrons (24) 


Middle East squadrons (18) 


Training squadrons (18) 


The wastage rates for engines were calculated on a dif- 
ferent basis. Engines were allotted to overseas squadrons 
as follows: air-cooled, 80; water-cooled, 75; and rotary, 
100. For home defence the allotment was 40 per squadron, 
while for training units two additional engines were allowed 
for each aeroplane. The wastage figures were estimated 
on this large-scale allotment to each squadron and worked 
out at about seven per cent, per month for squadrons in 
France, and at four per cent, for those squadrons working 
in the Middle East, and on home defence duties, or engaged 
in training. It may be remarked, incidentally, that it was 
bad accounting to make the calculation for engine wastage 
on a basis different from that for aeroplanes (or airframes). 
It w^as bad because it might be made to appear that the 
rate of engine wastage for each squadron was very much 
smaller than that for aeroplanes. There was at least one 
occasion when the Government appear to have been mis- 
led into a belief that this was so. The aeroplane figures, 
however, had reference to the number of front-line aero- 
planes with each squadron, whereas the engine figure 
included heavy reserves carried in each squadron, and 
presumably also took no notice of the large number of 
spares for each engine which represented an additional 

In July 1 91 7 Sir William Weir gave various figures to 
the Air Board which support the above calculations. To 


maintain 100 squadrons of eighteen aeroplanes in the 
Field, he said, required the production of 1,000 aeroplanes 
each month, while for home defence and for training the 
rate was about half. Thus 1,500 aeroplanes would have 
to be provided each month to maintain 1,800 in the 
Field. I 

It may be useful to consider some general implications 
of the above figures. During the war, with an aircraft in- 
dustry in being, and organized for large-scale output, about 
eight months elapsed before an aeroplane of new design 
reached the production stage, while the comparable figure 
for an engine was something over a year. Any nation 
which wishes to keep its air service in an adequate state 
of readiness would require to possess reserves sufficient to 
maintain its front-line squadrons at full strength during 
the period necessary for industry to get under way for 
large-scale production. Prudence, mindful of the unfore- 
seen difficulties which attended war-time production, 
especially of engines, might suggest that a delay of twelve 
months should be taken into account. If, however, allow- 
ance is made for post-war industrial improvements, and the 
interim period is cut down by, say, one-half, the position 
is that six months' supplies should be held to provide for a 
monthly wastage at the rate of about eighty per cent. In 
other words, the minimum reserves, cautiously reckoned, 
which an Air Force should hold, in readiness at any time, 
ought, according to the above calculations, to be about 
500 per cent, in excess of its first-line air strength. The 
figure can only be indicative, not exact, for it makes no 
allowance for expansion, nor, on the other hand, for 
output from the time of the opening of hostilities. 

So long as aircraft design is subject to rapid change, the 
holding of enormous reserves, which can only have a short 
and useless life before they are passed to the scrap-heap, 
must constitute a burden which statesmen will wish to 
avoid. What is clear is that the air weapon has conferred 

^ It is of interest that French calculations supplied to the Air Board 
in October 1 91 7 showed that to maintain 4,000 aeroplanes ready at the 
front with necessary reserves, a monthly output of 2,400 aeroplanes and 
4,000 engines was required. 


an advantage upon any nation which may be tempted by 
the possibiHty of an aggressive v^ar. Such a country might 
build up reserves, against an approximate date, in the firm 
beHef that the war might be won in the air before the 
opposing nation had time to organize its aircraft industry 
for production on a war scale. Provided the defending 
country began with inadequate reserves, the aggressor 
nation should find itself, after a short period of intensive 
fighting, with a mastery of the air which could not be 
effectively challenged for some time, perhaps for months. 
If such conditions came about, the defending nation would 
be unable to take action against air attacks aimed at the 
destruction of its aircraft industrial centres, and so might 
never be enabled to develop its air strength at all. If these 
observations be well founded, and they appear to be indis- 
putable, it is clear that adequate, even generous, reserves, 
whether of aircraft or pilots, or of industrial organization 
for immediate and sustained output, are indispensable if a 
nation is to be in a position to maintain air warfare. Some 
words of Mahan, written with no thought of the air 
weapon, illuminate and fortify the abiding importance of 
what has been said above. 'If time be,' he says, 'as is every- 
where admitted, a supreme factor in war, it behooves 
countries whose genius is essentially not military, whose 
people, like all free people, object to pay for large military 
establishments, to see to it that they are at least strong 
enough to gain the time necessary to turn the spirit and 
capacity of their subjects into the new activities which 
war calls for. If the existing force by land or sea is strong 
enough so to hold out, even though at a disadvantage, the 
country may rely upon its natural resources and strength 
coming into play for whatever they are worth, — its 
numbers, its wealth, its capacities of every kind. If, on 
the other hand, what force it has can be overthrown 
and crushed quickly, the most magnificent possibilities of 
natural power will not save it from humiliating conditions, 
nor, if its foe be wise, from guarantees which will post- 
pone revenge to a distant future.'^ 

^ The Influence of Sea Power ufon History, hy Captain A. T. Mahan, 
pp. 48-9. 


A Summary 

This survey of the organization of the country's man- 
power, and of the supply difficulties which prevented ful- 
filment of the air programmes, has been no more than 
cursory. It has been mainly concerned with failures, and 
with the causes for them, and not enough has been said 
about the positive achievements of the departments respon- 
sible for aircraft supplies. It would be possible to write, in 
sober truth, a glowing volume about the difficulties over- 
come, about the ingenuity and adaptability of the con- 
tracting and experimental departments and of the manu- 
facturers, about the bold, even romantic way in which, 
upon necessity, whole industries were taken over and 

To obtain the fabric to cover the aircraft the Ministry 
of Munitions had to control the whole linen output of 
the country, and when Russia, a main source of supply for 
flax, went out of the war the cultivation of flax seed within 
the Empire was intensively developed. The production of 
a suitable 'dope' for the treatment of the fabric presented 
a whole series of problems. It was essential, if the lifting 
power of the wings was to be retained, to prevent any 
passage of air through the fabric. Some kind of paste such 
as tapioca, and also beeswax and glue, were tried, but it 
was found that the moisture in the air created a sagging 
tendency in fabric so treated, and although a slackness thus 
produced was of no great importance so long as it was in- 
sufficient to affect the aerodynamic qualities of the wings, 
pilots did not like to fly aeroplanes on which the v/ings 
were not taut. The word 'dope' is of American slang 
origin, meaning a stupefying drink or a drug, and the name 
was adopted because the application of the liquid added 
tonic qualities which the fabric did not in its untreated state 
possess. The word, however, came in the first place from 
the Dutch doof^ sauce {doofen^ to dip), so that it was well 
applied. The basis of the earlier dopes was a low nitrated 
cellulose, formed by the action of nitric and sulphuric 
acids on cotton, and because it was highly inflammable a 
fire-proofing substance, triphenyl phosphate, was added. 


but the drawback of inflammability, which could not 
be entirely eliminated, led to the supersession of nitro- 
cellulose dopes by others of acetate kind. 

It was found that dopes formed from cellulose acetate 
were not only non-inflammable, but also tough, pliable, 
clear, and durable. The manufacture of cellulose acetate 
originated in Germany, and when war broke out the only 
sources of supply open to Britain were two foreign firms, 
one in Switzerland and the other in France. The British 
dope manufacturers made their own arrangements about 
buying raw materials, and there was no official attempt to 
see that an economical use of the materials was made. By 
the middle of 191 5 it was becoming difficult to obtain 
cellulose acetate, and the War Department thereupon 
assumed responsibility for making purchases in bulk, not 
only for the Royal Aircraft Factory and for War Office 
aircraft contractors, but also for some Admiralty contrac- 
tors. In July 1915 tenders were issued by the directorate 
of military aeronautics for 1 00 tons of cellulose acetate to 
be made in England, but there was only one response, 
from Dr. Dreyfus of the Cellonite Company, Basle, who 
reserved the right to deliver half of the total quantity from 
Switzerland. As Dr. Dreyfus was the only tenderer his 
offer and conditions were accepted, but there ensued diffi- 
culties, mainly having reference to the financial arrange- 
ments, and he eventually returned to Switzerland. He was 
subsequently approached by financiers who had already 
tried, without success, to manufacture cellulose acetate in 
this country, and, in March 1916, the British Cellulose 
and Chemical Manufacturing Company was formed to pro- 
duce, by the Dreyfus process, acetate of cellulose, methyl 
acetate, and other chemicals. A site for a factory was 
bought at Spondon, near Derby, and building began in 
August 191 6. After much negotiation the Government 
agreed, on conditions, to refund to the company the 
capital expenditure incurred during the war upon plant up 
to a maximum equal to the excess profits duty actually 
charged in respect of each year's working during five years 
from the formation of the company.^ 

^ New terms were agreed, under changed conditions, in June 191 8. Up 


In January 191 7, after samples of its products had been 
passed by Ministry of Munitions inspectors, the company 
was given its first direct contract for forty tons of acetate 
of cellulose, and because the aircraft programme was 
expanding rapidly and no other British source of supply 
appeared to offer prospects of early production, the com- 
pany was accorded priorities for labour and material in 
order that the factory might be completed in the shortest 
possible time. The first ton of cellulose acetate from 
Spondon passed inspection in April 191 7. The new com- 
pany got going just in time because, in July, the French 
authorities commandeered the whole output of the French 
factory (the Usines du Rhone Company) which had been 
an important source of supply. By the spring of 191 8, 
in spite of many difficulties, the home production of cellu- 
lose acetate was such that Britain had become independent 
of France and Switzerland for supplies, and it was found 
possible, in July, to arrange a supply to the Americans of 
twenty-five tons of cellulose acetate per month, although 
the demand for dope on British account had, in the mean- 
time, increased by more than twenty-five per cent, above 
what had been allowed for in the production programme. 

The development of the magneto industry may also be 
noted. In 1914 there was only one British firm producing 
magnetos, with a yearly output of 1,140, but at the end of 
the war fourteen firms were employed in this branch of 
the aircraft business with an output, for 1918, of 128,637. 
Bowdon tubes for pressure gauges were unobtainable in 
this country until a firm of gold refiners successfully took 
up their manufacture. Nor, before the war, had such in- 
struments as revolution indicators been made in Britain. 

In general, the supply of material and the rate of output 
had to be so controlled that the rhythm of production over 
the whole industrial field was maintained with the greatest 
possible smoothness : a break-down in the supply of any 
one component had effects which were far-reaching. The 
value of contracts for aeronautical material outstanding at 
the end of the war totalled ^165 millions, a sum which 

to that time the company had made no profit so that the duty concession 
was of no value. 

2504.6 H 


represented more than one-half of all the commitments of 
the Ministry of Munitions. 

It will perhaps help the reader if we here summarize the 
main reasons why the July 191 7 programme, which allowed 
for the air service to be doubled, was not fulfilled, and why 
the projected large-scale air offensive against German 
industrial and military targets was never realized. The 
main reasons may be set out as follows : 

(i) The selection of untried engines for mass production. 

(ii) Failure to encourage to the utmost an expansion of 
output of Rolls-Royce engines. It was said that the Rolls- 
Royce was the only engine which did not have 'teething 
troubles', but partly through difficulties associated with 
producing the engine in bulk, and partly because it required 
specialist skilled labour for repair, it was not until 191 8, 
when other engine supply failures had brought about a 
grave situation, that whole-hearted efforts were made to 
expand the production of Rolls-Royce {Eagle and Falcon) 

(iii) The reliance placed upon the Liberty engine. An 
important part of the bombing programme was made to 
depend upon the timely supply of these engines, but 
although the output estimates which came from America 
were conservatively discounted before the Liberty was 
taken into British official programmes, we were not suffi- 
ciently guided by our own experience with new engine 
designs. In October 191 7 Lord Northcliffe, cabling to the 
Cabinet and to the President of the Air Board, set out what 
American manufacturers hoped they would be able to 
achieve, but he pointed out the limiting factors, and said 
he thought it was unlikely that more than 5,000 fighting 
aeroplanes, fitted with Liberty engines, would be on the 
Western front in July 191 8. When July came there was 
not one such aeroplane in France. Yet the story of the 
design and production of the Liberty engine compares 
favourably with that of any similar British engine. It 
would have been wise to measure the production of Zz^^r^3; 
engines in strict accordance with our own experience. We 
were in a position, as American manufacturers were not 

1914-18] A SUMMARY 99 

in the early stages, to realize, and to make some allowance 
for, all the inevitable difficulties and disappointments 
which lay between the design of an engine and its pro- 
duction in mass. 

(iv) The lack of priority for aircraft production, parti- 
cularly for skilled labour, until the end of 191 7. The limit- 
ing effect was accentuated because the aircraft industry 
came late into the field. 

(v) The comb-out of munition workers in order that 
more soldiers might be put into the field after the German 
offensive opened on the Western front in March 191 8. 
The effect on output, of aircraft and its accessories, as of 
other weapons and munitions of war, was immediate. 

(vi) The need to make good abnormal losses of aero- 
planes and material as a result of the German 191 8 offen- 

(vii) The failure of the engine repair organization to 
keep pace with the accumulation of damaged engines. As 
a result, the establishment of engines per squadron had to 
be increased, and additional engines were sent to France, 
to be held in reserve, which would otherwise have been 
employed to equip new aircraft.^ 

There were other obstacles and difficulties, such as a 
shortage of ball-bearings, of magnetos, and of silver spruce, 
but these and similar ones were of secondary importance 
because the air-expansion programme was always limited 
by the output of engines. 

It is clear, from what has been said, that in a war of 
attrition, such as that waged between 1914 and 191 8, the 

^ Repairs were made by service units and, from the end of 1917, by 
civilian contractors. During the year ended the 30th of June 191 8 more 
than 14,000 engines came in for repair. It was expected that 30,000 would 
require repair for the year ending 30th of June 1919. It was suggested 
that the number to be repaired should be fixed at 3,000 per month, 2,200 
to be dealt with by the service and the remainder by civilian contractors. 
The main object of making the service responsible for the major repair 
work was that service discipline eliminated the possibility of labour 
troubles. There was also the advantage that it provided good opportunities 
for technical training. In fact, the civilian contractors could not keep 
pace with repair requirements. In June 1918, for example, there was a total 
outstanding deficiency of 1,491 repaired engines from civilian firms as com- 
pared with the scheduled output. 


State which is empowered to override private rights and 
contracts, and to coerce each individual to take his or her 
appointed place in accordance with the national pohcy 
and organization for prosecuting the war, has important 
advantages. Such a State, in the ordinary way of prepara- 
tion, would, in addition to its armed forces, have ready 
comprehensive plans for organizing the whole production 
of the country in order that, if and when the need arose, 
the maximum mihtary strength and endurance of the 
nation might be developed with rapidity, efficiency, and 
economy. Preparation of this kind would require the list- 
ing of the adult population according to age, occupation, 
physical fitness, and so forth. Priorities, immediately en- 
forceable, would have to be devised, according to the nature 
of the war, for the production of munitions, military equip- 
ment, medical supplies, necessary food and clothing, and 
the maintenance of exports so far as they were required to 
obtain essential imports. Indeed the whole field of national 
economy would have to be planned in order that those 
activities which did not contribute to military efficiency 
might be determined and, wherever possible, eliminated. 
At the same time nothing must be done to undermine the 
maintenance of civilian morale. 

The idea that the State should exercise unlimited dicta- 
torial powers, even in war, is one which is repugnant to 
many minds. War, however, is a devastating, inexorable 
business, and whatever impedes a nation from developing 
its war effort has to be bitterly paid for in human suffering. 
In organizing the State for war, compulsion alone is of 
small value. Compulsion must rest upon the will of the 
people, and sacrifices may be demanded only in the degree 
in which a majority of the people believe them to be un- 


Matters of Policy 

In February 191 8 the Spanish Ambassador in London 
orally informed the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs 
that His Majesty the King of Spain had been in com- 
munication with the German Government with the 
object of getting some check placed upon the bombing of 
undefended towns. The matter was subsequently dis- 
cussed at a War Cabinet meeting and it was agreed that 
a courteous reply should be sent to the Ambassador in- 
forming him that the British had always objected to the 
bombardment of undefended towns and would consider 
any proposals on the subject which the Germans had to 
put forward. 

The sequel was a statement, made in the Bavarian 
Chamber, which appeared to signify an offer on behalf of 
Germany to abandon air attacks on open towns if the 
Allies agreed to do the same. Meanwhile, various memo- 
randa on the legal and historical aspects of air bombing 
had been prepared. In one of these, drawn up by the 
General Staff at the War Office, it was pointed out that 
the German General Staff had always argued that the 'sole 
'criterion as to the legality of a bombardment is whether 
'the place possesses military value to the enemy at the time', 
a view with which the British General Staff expressed 
agreement. It had been found impossible to define, with 
any chance of general acceptance, what constituted an un- 
defended town, and, in any case, when the matter had been 
debated internationally in the past no one had foreseen a 
cordon of troops extending from the sea to Switzerland. 
This was a new feature which modified all existing theories. 
As warfare developed so the defence of a town had had 
to be undertaken at increasing distances from its centre. 
The original defence walls of Paris, for example, were 
now well within the city, but although the trench lines 
defending Paris were, at their nearest, many dozens of 
miles distant from the capital they no longer afforded 


protection against long-range bombardment. In other 
words, a town might be rendered immune from bombard- 
ment, under modern conditions, only by lines drawn, or 
by operations conducted, at an appreciable distance. It 
would, therefore, be difficult to rebut the argument that 
the entire areas protected by the existing Allied lines, or 
by the corresponding cordon of ships in the North Sea, 
were 'defended'. Once this was admitted it followed that 
the bombardment of these areas by any means whatever, 
whether by land, sea, or air, was legitimate, 'since no legal 
duty has been imposed on attacking forces to restrict 
bombardment to actual fortifications, and the destruction 
of its public and private buildings has always been regarded 
as a legitimate means of inducing a town to surrender. . . . 
The fundamental criterion of the legitimacy of belligerent 
operations is — Do they manifestly subserve military in- 
terests and are they justifiable on the grounds of military 

When the statement made in the Bavarian Chamber was 
considered by the Cabinet, together with the memoranda 
prepared by the experts, the opinion was expressed that 
the enemy offer was influenced by the knowledge that 
Germany must expect to suffer more damage from air 
bombing than she could hope to inflict, and that if it was 
agreed, for example, that bombing should be confined 
to an area within twelve to twenty miles from the front 
line, the effect on the Western front would be that the 
bombing by both sides would be concentrated against 
French and Belgian towns. In other words, to abandon 
the bombing of distant objectives would be to profit the 
enemy. ^ Furthermore, in the interest of future peace, it 
was undesirable that the civil population of Germany 

^ That the War Cabinet rightly interpreted the German attitude is 
confirmed by an authoritative article in Die Luftwacht in October 1928. 
This article, on the subject of Home Defence in Germany, by Major 
Grosskreutz, says: 'On March 31st 191 8 the German Higher Command 
'was invited to put forward measures with respect to a question then 
'before the Reichstag, namely, the possibility of coming to an arrangement 
'with regard to air raids. The reason was that the severe moral shock to 
'the population of the towns in western and south-western Germany sub- 
'jected to enemy air raids called for effective and speedy measures.' 


should be the one population among the belligerents to 
enjoy immunity from the worst sufferings of war. It was 
concluded that Mr. Bonar Law should not make a state- 
ment in the House of Commons unless questioned, and 
that he should then base his reply on the propositions : 
(i) That we had not bombed open towns, except in 

rare cases, as direct reprisals, 
(ii) That we were most desirous of diminishing the 

sufferings of non-combatants, especially women 

and children, 
(iii) That we could not give up the right to bomb 

genuine military objectives. 
Thus the Government retained freedom of action for 
the development of long-distance bombing operations. 
Although the decision to form an Air Ministry, however, 
had been based on the need for an Air Staff to study the 
problems associated with such strategic bombing, the 
Government had not, in fact, laid down any definite policy 
by which the Air Ministry might formulate its proposals. 
At the beginning of May Sir William Weir succeeded 
Lord Rothermere as Air Minister and, on the 23rd, he 
circulated to the War Cabinet a memorandum in which he 
set out the considerations which should, he thought, 
regulate the policy of the Air Ministry. After making the 
assumption that the Air Ministry had been constituted 
because of a conviction that 'a rapid development of aerial 
'forces devoted to the interruption of German industrial 
^effort and kindred objects', might make a substantial con- 
tribution towards bringing about a demand for peace, he 
stated that the Air Ministry should be recognized as 'the 
'authority on air policy, and the Air Staff must command 
'the fullest knowledge of all methods of the utilization of 
'aircraft and their effectiveness in practice'. Bombing 
operations against long-distance targets would require a 
large measure of freedom and independence from other 
military schemes. 

The memorandum was referred by the War Cabinet to 
its Air Policy Committee for final decision. This body 
made a few minor emendations and then circulated the 
memorandum, as its decision, on the loth of July. It 


stated : 'The Air Ministry is responsible to the War Cabinet 
'for securing that utihzation of the available aerial forces of 
'the country which will prove most effective in its results 
'against the enemy, with the limitation that the operational 
'control of the forces allocated to the Navy or the Army 
'rests with those Departments respectively,' It also 
stated that 'the continuous bombing of German industrial 
'centres presents very important possibilities and valuable 
'results may be achieved by the use of even a small force 
'commencing to operate now, and by its rapid progressive 

Meanwhile arrangements had been put in hand for the 
organization of a strategic bombing force. On the 13th 
of May the Air Council informed the War Cabinet that, 
in their opinion, the time had arrived to constitute an 
Independent Force for large-scale bombing attacks on 
Germany. They proposed, therefore, to organize the exist- 
ing Brigade as a separate command under Major-General 
H. M. Trenchard who would work directly under the 
Air Ministry. Because long-distance bombing operations 
would, in the future, partake of an international character, 
the Air Ministry further proposed that the broad lines of 
action should be laid down by the Supreme War Council 
at Versailles on the advice of its mihtary representatives. 

In a supplementary memorandum, a few days later. Sir 
William Weir stated that the French would probably 
object to the independent command of the bombing force 
and would put forward strong claims that it should operate 
under the Generalissimo, General Foch. 'I would repre- 
'sent most strongly', he proceeded, 'the possible dangers of 
'such an arrangement, and would point out the necessity 
'of supporting the independence of this command to a 
'similar degree as a naval command.' In conclusion, he 
asked the War Cabinet to place before the Supreme War 
Council, at the earliest possible date, the follovying proposi- 
tions : 

(i) Confirmation of the Independent Long-Range 
Bombing Command. 

^ The full terms of the decision, as set out in the modified memorandum, 
are given as Appendix VII. 


(ii) Its ultimate development into an Inter- Allied com- 
mand under a British General Officer Command- 
ing, so long as the British portion of the command 
is the larger, 
(iii) M. Clemenceau to obtain the support of the French 

army authorities to this scheme. 
The War Cabinet duly adopted the Air Minister's 
memorandum, and a telegram was sent to M. Clemenceau, 
the French Prime Minister and Minister for War, inform- 
ing him of the institution of an Independent Force and 
asking that Major-General Trenchard be given all the 
necessary facilities. M. Clemenceau replied that he had 
issued instructions to General Duval^ to make the neces- 
sary arrangements v^ith Major-General Trenchard. 

When, however, the subject came up for discussion at 
Versailles, it soon became clear that the way of the Inde- 
pendent Force would not be smooth. At the beginning 
of May a committee consisting of five members each from 
Great Britain, France, America, and Italy had been set up 
by the Supreme War Council to deal with questions of 
air policy. This body had held its first meeting on the 9th 
of May and had discussed, among other subjects, the 
question of long-distance bombing operations. The debate 
was on general lines and ended on the note that the various 
representatives should give consideration to the details of 
available means, of objectives, of the types of aeroplanes 
to be employed, and of the zones in France from which 
operations might be conducted. It was agreed that the 
matter could then be debated more fully at the next meet- 
ing. Before the next meeting took place, the British 
Government had informed M. Clemenceau of their decision 
to set up an Independent Force, and General Duval came 
to the second Versailles meeting on the 31st of May with 
M. Clemenceau's telegram, announcing this decision, in his 
pocket. He opened the discussion with a puzzled reference 
to the word 'independent'. The Alhes, he said, had been 
consistently seeking for co-operation and co-ordination 
and he failed to understand how an independent command 

^ Deputy Chief of the French General Staff in charge of the Air Service 
at French General Head-quarters. 


could be reconciled with this search. Major-General Sykes, 
the Chief of the Air Staff, explained that the first duty 
of the force would be long-distance bombing outside the 
army zone, but that its second duty would be to assist 
the armies and that, if necessary, the Generalissimo could 
request the help of Major-General Trenchard in an emer- 
gency. General Duval objected that the matter was very 
serious : the committee was asked to say that the primary 
object was to bomb Germany and the secondary one to 
beat the Germans in the field. This, he contended, was a 
mistake. What was needed was the unification, under one 
commander, of all the forces, not their dissemination. 
There was limited space in France for the construction 
of aerodromes, and the French Government wished to 
allot ground only if it was to be utilized for the defeat of 
the enemy in the field. He took exception to the proposal 
that the Generalissimo might only request the help of the 
commander of the Independent Force. 'From a military 
'point of view', he said, 'orders are better than requests.' 

Major-General Sykes pointed out that it was the con- 
sidered policy of the British Government that once the 
necessities of the army had been determined and allowed 
for, the balance of aircraft resources was to be devoted to 
bombing squadrons, a statement which prompted General 
Duval to retort with Gallic irony that he would be grateful 
to any authority who could establish the limit of what was 
necessary to a battle. The greatest commanders, he said, 
had always solved this problem by putting into the battle 
every resource they had. 

We need not further pursue the discussion. In the end 
the members of the committee could come to no agree- 
ment, and it was decided that the question should be 
referred to the Supreme War Council. Whether because 
of pressure of other work, or from reluctance to grasp the 
thorns of the problem, the Supreme War Council allowed 
the wxeks to pass without giving its attention to the matter 
and then, on the 2ist of July, the Inter- AUied Aviation 
Committee made another attempt to reach agreement, 
again entirely without success. 

On the 24th of July Major-General Sykes reported the 

I9I8] JOINT NOTE NO. 35 107 

discussions and difficulties to the War Cabinet. At this 
meeting Sir Henry Wilson, the Chief of the General Staff, 
said that he had had a conversation with General Foch 
who had told him that when the fighting season was over 
he would raise the question of the Independent Force. 
The opinion of General Foch was that Major-General 
Trenchard should come under his command or else the 
Independent Force should move out of France. 

The War Cabinet decided to bring forward the whole 
question at the next meeting of the Versailles Council. 
French action, however, forestalled this intention. On the 
27th of July the French military representative on the 
Council circulated a note and draft resolution, on the sub- 
ject of an Inter-Allied Bombing Force, for the approval of 
the other military members of the Council, and on the 3rd 
of August this note, after minor amendment, was signed 
by the military representatives of France, Britain, America, 
and Italy, for presentation to the Supreme War Council. It 
was known diSjointNoteNo, 35 (Appendix IX) and recorded 
' the opinion of the military representatives that, as soon as 
Allied resources in men and material allowed, an Inter- Allied 
Bombing Air Force should be constituted on the Western 
front. The force should be equipped with weight-carrying 
aircraft with a wide radius of action and should be at the 
disposal of the Generalissimo in France who would nominate 
its commander after consultation with the Commanders- 
in-Chief of the various Allied armies under his orders. It 
was expedient, said the note, in anticipation of the con- 
stitution of this force, and without waiting for the Allied 
Governments to decide whether the enemy should first 
be summoned to stop bombing Allied towns under penalty 
of reprisals, to begin to elaborate a plan for methodical 
attacks on enemy towns and industrial centres.^ Finally it 
was suggested that any similar bombing force which might 
be set up in a theatre of operations outside France, should 
be placed under the control of the commander-in-chief of 
the armies in the theatre. This suggestion arose out of an 
emendation made by the British military representative, 

^ The Inter-Allied Aviation Committee was requested to go ahead 
with these plans. 


who possibly had in mind independent bombing operations 
conducted from British soil. Whether this was so or not, 
the fact remains that, as nothing was specifically said to 
the contrary, an Independent Bombing Force, operating 
from England, would, in accordance with the terms of the 
note, be placed under the Commander-in-Chief, Home 
Forces. There is no need to lay stress on this point, but 
it may be remarked that the arguments for placing the 
bombing force under the operational control of the Com- 
mander-in-Chief in a theatre of war overseas did not apply 
at home. The Secretary of State for Air, advised by his 
Air Staff, was indubitably in a better position to direct, in 
accordance with the policy of the War Cabinet, indepen- 
dent operations from British soil. If the Government had 
accepted the Joint Note in its entirety the separate exis- 
tence of the Air Ministry would have been immediately 

The Joint Note, in fact, never came before the Supreme 
War Council because there was no meeting of that body 
between July and October. The note did, however, form 
the basis of important discussions between the French 
and the British Governments. On the 13th of August 
M. Clemenceau sent the note to Marshal Foch and asked 
him to draw up a general programme for the air bombard- 
ment of the interior of Germany, and to examine the condi- 
tions under which it would be possible to give effect to the 
programme. Basing his study of the question on the Joint 
Note, Marshal Foch, who replied on the 1 3th of September, 
proposed that an Inter-Allied Bombing Force should be 
formed under the command of Major-General Trenchard 
to operate, under the Generalissimo, in accordance with a 
bombing programme accepted by the Supreme War Coun- 
cil. He reserved the right, during military operations, to 
use the whole, or part, of the bombing force in battle. 
He concluded by urging M. Clemenceau to obtain the 
approval of the French Government to the Joint Note and 
to use 'his high authority to hasten the consent of the 
other Allied Governments'. 

Before this reply had been dispatched, the Air Ministry 
had reason to anticipate its tenor. They knew from Sir 


Henry Wilson, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff 
and a personal friend of Marshal Foch, that the French 
Generalissimo would insist on controlling any part of the 
Independent Force on French soil. The Air Ministry 
feared that if this happened the squadrons of the Inde- 
pendent Force would be lost to the British Army, which 
might, in emergency, find itself starved for the benefit 
of our Allies. In a memorandum drafted by the Air Staff 
it was stated: 'The Air Staff are so firmly convinced of 
the absolute necessity for the creation of an independent 
striking force and its employment in accordance with the 
declared policy of the Air Staff, that they are prepared, in 
the event of the control of the Independent Force in France 
being vested in the Generalissimo on the Western front, 
to recommend the removal of the entire force, as it stands, 
to England. The Independent Force would then be based 
in Norfolk, and only emergency landing grounds main- 
tained in France.' This memorandum, which was written 
for submission to the War Cabinet, was never placed 
before that body. Instead, Lord Weir, the Air Minister, 
with the concurrence of Mr. Lloyd George, wrote to 
M. Clemenceau on the 26th of August. In this letter he 
set out very fully the motives which had moved the British 
Government to form an independent bombing force, and 
he submitted that he was justified in demanding the 
same measure of autonomy as would be granted to a naval 
force, and that the Independent Force should be treated 
as ready to act in co-operation with the army, but not as 
auxiliary or subordinate to it.^ M. Clemenceau again 
referred the matter to Marshal Foch who replied to Lord 
Weir's letter in a separate memorandum on the 14th of 
September. This is reprinted as Appendix VIII, and the 
attitude of Marshal Foch will be sufficiently indicated here 
if we quote an early paragraph. 'Since the military power 
'of the enemy is represented by his army,' he wrote, 
*and since the sole means we have for destroying his army 
'is our own army, it is on our army that we must con- 
'centrate all our efforts in order to render it as strong and 

^ Lord Weir had had a talk with M. Clemenceau on the 19th of August 
and had spoken to him on the lines of his letter. 


*weU armed as possible. In consequence, any combination 
^tending to diminish the army or hinder its development 
'on the plea of organizing a new force capable of reducing 
*the enemy, must be rejected.' He concluded by repeat- 
ing that the bombing force could not be exempted from 
the authority of the command responsible for the united 
action of all the combatant forces. 

M. Clemenceau replied to Lord Weir on the 24th of 
September by repeating the arguments and intentions of 
Marshal Foch. By this time, however, the conditions on 
the Western front had changed. When the War Cabinet 
came to consider M. Clemenceau's memorandum a vic- 
torious end to the war was at last in sight. In their note, 
by way of reply, which was sent on the 3rd of October, it 
was stated that the British Government were strongly of 
the opinion that an even greater effect than had hitherto 
been achieved would result from a direct air offensive 
against Germany in the event of a later stabilization of the 
line nearer the frontier. On the other hand, the potential 
disintegration of the enemy's battle front represented a 
new condition which justified a reconsideration of the 
method for the employment of the force. When the scheme 
had been formed the British Government had, according 
to the opinion of their military advisers, to contemplate 
the prospect of defensive warfare, throughout 191 8 and 
possibly 1 91 9, on the front then existing. It had been 
important, therefore, to develop to the utmost the arm 
which alone offered the opportunity of carrying the offen- 
sive into the heart of Germany. Under the changed con- 
ditions on the Western front it was possible to contemplate 
a fluid and progressive line of battle which might take the 
Allied armies into Germany itself. In such an emergency, 
said the note, it was recognized that difficulties of trans- 
port and administration, &c., were such that a long-range 
bombing force might most effectively operate under the 
immediate command of the Commander-in-Chief of the 
Allied Armies, and it was for these reasons that the British 
Government were prepared to accede to the request of 
the French Government that Major-General Trenchard's 
force should be placed under the supreme command of 


Marshal Foch. An agreement, accordingly, was drawn up 
for the approval of M. Clemenceau, on behalf of the French 
Government, and it was suggested that the agreement 
might be ratified hy the Allied Governments at the next 
meeting of the Supreme War Council. The French 
Government notified their acceptance of the draft pro- 
posals on the 17th of October and, in anticipation of 
acceptance by the Italian and American Governments, 
Major-General Trenchard was informed officially, on the 
26th of October, of his appointment as Commander-in- 
Chief, under the supreme control of Marshal Foch, of the 
Inter-Allied Independent Air Force. The heads of the 
agreement about the constitution of the force were set out 
as follows: 

1. The object of the Force. 

To carry war into Germany by attacking her industry, 
commerce, and population. 

2. The Plan of Campaign. 

Air raids must be on a large scale and repeated, forming 
part of a methodical plan and carried on with tenacity. 

3. Execution of the Plan. 

The complete realization of this scheme is not to be 
undertaken until the imperative requirements of the fight- 
ing have been satisfied or during the intervals of the fight- 

It will therefore be possible to carry out this plan in 
two ways according to circumstances. 

{a) During feriods of active operations. The require- 
ments of battle will have to be met first, thus reducing in 
varying proportions the strength of forces available for 
raids on the interior of Germany. The bombing action 
being begun will, however, have to be pursued even with a 
reduced strength. 

(b) During steady or quiet periods. Bombing raids on the 
interior of Germany become the chief work of our bomb- 
ing squadrons. Having satisfied the Air Service require- 
ments of the Army, all available long-range aeroplanes will 
be free to take part in the raids. 


4. ^he establishment of the Inter-Allied Independent Air 

This establishment will include Allied Flights of heavy 
weight -carrying aeroplanes with a wide radius of action, 
and will probably be reinforced later by further available 
Allied Flights of the same type.^ 

The Force will be placed under the command of General 
Trenchard, as Commander-in-Chief, assisted by a staff in- 
cluding, besides the present staff, an officer of each of the 
nations represented in the Bombing Force. 

General Trenchard will be under the supreme command 
of Marshal Foch for operations. 

5. l^he name of the Force shall be the Inter-Allied Inde- 
pendent Air Force. 

The appointment of Major-General Trenchard was one 
of great interest and of even greater possibilities. Marshal 
Foch, in his various memoranda on the subject, made clear 
his view that the squadrons of the bombing force should 
be available for direct co-operation with the armies during 
battle. In an earlier volume,^ when comment was made on 
the Generalissimo's orders, issued soon after his appoint- 
ment, which had reference to the concentration and 
effective employment of Allied aircraft, it was suggested 
that the orders could not be fulfilled, in the spirit or the 
letter, because no air officer was appointed to command, 
under the Generalissimo, all Allied offensive aircraft, that 
is, fighters and bombers. This suggestion was made with 
strict reference to the bombing and fighting aircraft 
definitely allotted for work with the armies in the field, 
and did not take into account a strategic bombing force 
such as that to which Major-General Trenchard was 
appointed. Had the war endured into 191 9 it is possible 
that there would have been changes of importance in the 

^ Author''s note. The Allied bombers which it was intended to place 
under Major-General Trenchard were stated to be: French Bomber 
Group No. 2 and Italian Bomber Group No. 18. American squadrons 
were to be added later. Major-General Trenchard, as commander-in- 
chief, was given full control of the tactical employment of his Force. 

2 Vol. IV, p. 349. 


direction of the air services on the Western front. Marshal 
Foch consistently stated his opinion that the effective con- 
centration of aircraft v^as essential to success and that he 
must, as Generalissimo, be given full powders to effect this 
concentration, irrespective of national susceptibilities or 
of national army boundaries. His firm desire to obtain 
control of the bombing force w^as in strict accordance v^ith 
this outlook. Just as he reserved the right to divert, accord- 
ing to his judgement, the bombing squadrons from attacks 
on German industrial centres to attacks on selected military 
objectives when battles were in progress, so, when the 
battle-front was quiet, it is logical to assume he would have 
been prepared to divert some of the bombing strength 
allotted to the armies in order to augment the striking- 
power of the strategic bombing force. Major-General 
Trenchard had been General Officer Commanding the 
Royal Flying Corps in France from the middle of 191 5 
until January 191 8. Under his direction the air service and 
its activities had expanded enormously. From a knowledge 
of his record while commanding the Royal Flying Corps in 
the field, one may hazard the statement that he would 
possibly have concluded that the Allied air services could 
not have developed their full effectiveness in 1919 unless 
his command was extended to include all Allied aircraft 
on the Western front except the necessary minimum, con- 
sisting mainly of reconnaissance and artillery observation 
units, definitely allotted for co-operation with the armies 
in the field. It may be that Marshal Foch would have built 
up a reserve force from the Allied air services. It is clear 
from his memorandum (Appendix X) that his conception 
of the right employment of the Independent Force could 
have differed in no great degree from what he might have 
laid down as the guiding principles for the employment of 
a strategic air reserve. In other words, it seems logical to 
suggest that Major-General Trenchard's command might 
have been extended to include such a reserve. The specula- 
tion, although academic, is worth making because the 
AUied armies on the Western front did not at any time 
throughout the war obtain the advantages which their 
combined superiority in aircraft should have given them. 
2504.6 I 


The conditions in 191 9 would have been such that, for 
the first time in the war, the striking formations of the 
AlHed air services might have enjoyed a single direction. 

On the other hand, it must be pointed out that, had it 
appeared likely the war would continue well into 191 9, the 
British Government would most probably not have given 
way on the question of subordinating the Independent 
Bombing Force to the French Generalissimo. The argu- 
ments put forward by the French were no different in kind 
from those which had been advanced, with force and con- 
viction, by Sir Douglas Haig and by other military and 
naval authorities. After exhaustive debate, and after full 
consideration of all aspects of what might without dis- 
respect be called the military point of view, the Govern- 
ment had decided to conduct a campaign of independent 
air warfare against the heart of Germany. The possibility 
is that had the outlook on the Western front in October 
remained unaltered, and had the French Government 
persisted in its opposition to the presence of an inde- 
pendent bombing force on French soil, then the British 
Government would have considered moving that force, 
in its entirety, to Britain. 

The student has had the various arguments on this im- 
portant subject set before him and he will, no doubt, 
according to his general views, form his own conclusions. 
There are, however, a few additional considerations which 
are relevant to the problem. The word 'independent' was, 
perhaps, ill chosen. The realistic French military mind at 
once conjured up a vision of an alien force conducting, from 
the French battle area, a private war of its own according 
to the strange doctrines of black-coated gentlemen across 
the Channel. The word independent, indeed, introduced 
so soon after dire necessity had compelled a form of unity 
of command for the Western front, in itself constituted 
something of a challenge. There was one French General 
who, when he heard the name of the force, exclaimed : 
'Independent of whom, of God?' It may be that some 
such title as 'British Bombing Force' would have made for 
quieter discussion. Whether that would have been so or 
not, it is a fact that until the Independent Force was 


placed under the supreme control of Marshal Foch, that 
is to say, during most of the time of its existence, it was, 
so far as possible, disregarded by the French high military 
authorities. Had it not been for Major-General Tren- 
chard's determination, helped by his own personal relations 
and those of Major Maurice Baring with some of the French 
authorities, more particularly with General de Castelnau, 
commanding the French Eastern Group of Armies, and 
with his staff, the Independent Force might never have 
been enabled to operate. French head-quarters were 
mindful of difficulties about allotting ground for aero- 
dromes and camps, and all the business of communications 
and of ground organization had to be arranged in an 
atmosphere that, outside General de Castelnau's sphere 
of influence, was seldom helpful. 

This is no matter for hard words. The French were 
frank and logical from the beginning. The statement of 
General Duval, already given, may be repeated, namely, 
that there was a limited space in France for the construc- 
tion of aerodromes, and that the French Government 
wished to allot ground only if it was to be utilized for the 
defeat of the enemy in the field. It should be remembered, 
also, that when the discussions were taking place, it was 
not simply a question of a few squadrons. A programme 
was, in fact, prepared which gave the Independent Force 
more squadrons than existed with the British Armies in 
France when the war ended. ^ There is no evidence that 
the details of this programme, which was never formally 
approved by the War Cabinet, were communicated to the 
French Government, but one may assume that the French 
authorities were well aware that the British Government 
intended and hoped to make the Independent Force a 
formidable command. And from the French point of view 
the objections to a large organization, over which they 
could exercise no effective control, cumbering their lines 
of communication, in an area where military concentra- 
tions for offence or for defence might at any time become 
necessary, were, perhaps, unanswerable. 

With the French views about the operational control of 

I See p. 171. 


the Independent Force, every serious student of warfare 
must feel some sympathy. In a land campaign, such as 
that of 191 8, the Generalissimo alone could judge what 
was the decisive time and place for operations. What 
would have been the military use, for instance, of the 
spasmodic bombing of German industrial centres at a time 
when the Allied armies were threatened with disaster by a 
German offensive? If the Generalissimo decided — as he 
alone could — that it was imperative to direct the full weight 
of his bombing offensive towards the interruption of traffic 
on the lines of communication leading to the decisive 
battle-front, imagine his position if he had to go cap in 
hand to enlist the goodwill of an independent air com- 
mander who was subject to the control of a body remote 
from the stresses and rapidly changing conditions of the 
battle. It does not really affect the argument that Major- 
General Trenchard would, in the circumstances envisaged, 
have placed his force without doubt at the disposal of 
Marshal Foch. There is another general point to be con- 
sidered which has no particular reference to times of crises. 
It should be remembered that the independent bombing 
squadrons, to reach their objectives, had to fly over the 
battle area where the fight for air superiority was con- 
tinuous. The activities of the bombing formations were 
partly dependent on the effectiveness of the air offensive 
waged by those squadrons which were under the ultimate 
control of the Generalissimo. On the other hand, it should 
be borne in mind that the bombing operations against dis- 
tant objectives caused a number of fighting aircraft to be 
diverted for defence and to that extent influenced the air 
situation at the front. 

So much, then, for pure military theory. There were, 
however, factors which came into play, as they would 
again in comparable circumstances, which had nothing to 
do with theory. Marshal Foch had no security of tenure. 
Changes in the French political atmosphere might lead, at 
any time, to a change of generalissimo. The grave un- 
certainty on the Western front, arising from the pressure 
exerted by the German offensives, might bring about swift 
alterations in French military strategy of a kind which might 

I9I8] UNITY 117 

not, at least to British minds, give sufficient weight to the 
position of the British armies. The idea, under these con- 
ditions, that the control of a number of British squadrons 
should pass inevitably to the French v^as one v^hich the 
Air Ministry v^as naturally reluctant to accept. Chiefly, 
hov^ever, there v^as conflict about how the war should be 
waged. Was the air weapon merely an auxiliary, with no 
independent functions of its own, as some strategists 
trained and practised in an older school of warfare insisted, 
or could it, if properly employed, go a long way towards 
forcing the enemy to sue for peace, as the air staff believed ? 
Had the Air Council felt assured that the generalissimo, no 
matter who he might be, would share its own views about 
the efficacy of what may be termed strategic bombing, it is 
unlikely that there would have been any tenacious opposi- 
tion to his being given control of the British bombing 
squadrons. It was precisely because the Air Council felt, 
not assurance, but misgiving, that it fought, as it must, 
for the independence of the force. Finally it must be 
pointed out that there were some who objected to the 
independence of the force, not because they held narrow 
views about the military employment of the air weapon, 
but because they believed that to break up the air service 
into independent detachments was a backward step. The 
air is one element, and to create, voluntarily, a distinct 
force for bombing, and to adhere with gritty tenacity to 
the idea of its independence, was to make a case for further 
disintegration. What the Air Council claimed for its 
bombing units, it was argued, the army might similarly 
claim for its attached air squadrons, or the navy for, say, 
its anti-submarine aircraft detachments. In other words, 
to separate a particular bombing force from the main body, 
which also undertook bombing operations, was an act 
calculated to divide and not to unify the air services. 




[Map, p. 152] 

^he Luxeuil Bombing Wing 

The study of the independent bombing operations against 
German industrial targets should rightly begin with No. 3 
Naval Wing which was formed in France, at Luxeuil, near 
Belfort, in the summer of 1916.^ The main object of the 
British Admiralty was to inflict damage on the German 
works in the Saar industrial area where, there was reason 
to believe, steel for U-boats was being manufactured in 
large quantities. The naval bombers began to co-operate 
with French pilots in a series of organized attacks early in 
October. Evidence made available after the war leaves no 
doubt that the combined bombing offensive had some of 
the results anticipated by the British Admiralty. On the 
1 8th of November 191 6 the president of the powerful steel 
works union of Diisseldorf telegraphed to the German high 
command : 'At a meeting of the Board of Administration 
held to-day, reference was made by the steel works on the 
Western front to the serious dislocation of work caused by 
air raids. The perpetually increasing curtailment of night 
work due to these raids not only results in an average de- 
crease of thirty per cent, of the steel works' output, but it 
is feared that night work may soon have to be entirely sus- 
pended. Since, in order to carry out the vast programme, 
we are instructed to increase production at these very 
works on the Western front, we consider that better pro- 
tection is absolutely necessary. All the works managers 
agree that the present military protection is entirely 
inadequate. We should be deeply grateful to the army 
administration if opportunity could be given as soon as 
possible for a representative to explain this serious posi- 
At the time this telegram was received the German high 

* See Vol. II, pp. 451-3. 

^ Major Grosskreutz in Die Luftwacht, June 1928. 


command was already giving careful attention to the 
problems of air defence. Germany had been particularly 
shocked by a raid on Karlsruhe made by French aeroplanes 
on the 22nd of June 1916, the day of Corpus Christi, when 
120 civilians had been killed and 146 injured. There had 
followed a public outcry for protection and, by the early 
autumn, some Flights of single-seater fighters had already 
been distributed over the industrial area on the Western 
front from Cologne to Freiburg. There was, however, 
little co-ordination between these scattered Flights and 
the anti-aircraft gunners or the warning posts, an unsatis- 
factory state of affairs which had been remedied on the 8th 
of October 191 6, when the Kaiser, by Order in Council, 
amalgamated 'all means of air combat and air defence with 
'the army, in the field and in the home areas, into one 
'unit'. I 

The result of this order was the appointment of a com- 
mander-in-chief of the air forces with, under him, a com- 
mander of the home air defences who was given control 
of the warning system, the gun and searchlight units, and 
the aeroplane defence Flights. One of the first actions of 
the new air command was to appoint officers who had 
already distinguished themselves on the battle-front to im- 
portant posts in the home air defence organization. At the 
same time anti-aircraft units were withdrawn from the 
battle front and allocated to positions in back areas, and 
searchlights were allotted to obvious industrial targets. 
The number of lights was consistently increased until, by 
the middle of 191 7, all important objectives were pro- 
tected by inner and outer rings of lights. Machine-guns 
were also diverted to the main industrial works because 
it was judged that there was no other way to combat low- 
flying bombers. At first the guns were manned by selected 
workers, but during the summer of 191 7 mihtary machine- 
gun sections were established for this form of home defence. 

Some additional single-seater fighter FHghts were 

formed for home defence at the beginning of 191 7 and, 

with the existing FHghts, were employed to give, so far 

as possible, an interconnected line of fighters from the 

^ Major Grosskreutz in Die Luftwacht, June 1928. 


Rhenish-Westphalia industrial area to the Swiss frontier, 
with advanced detachments which had orders to attack 
and turn back the bombers. Another effect of the Allied 
bombing campaign was a demand from many German 
factories for balloon and kite barrages, but it was not until 
March 191 7 that balloon detachments for industrial pro- 
tection were formed. Barrage detachments were allocated 
to the Saar, to the Lorraine-Luxembourg, and to the 
Rhineland industrial areas. Although they were said to 
have entailed an excessive expenditure of time, labour, 
and equipment, and were, in consequence, disliked by the 
German military authorities, the effect on the morale of 
the workers was reckoned to be so great that additional 
barrage detachments v/ere subsequently formed. 'Those 
'in fear of a raid', wrote Major Grosskreutz, 'had the 
'feeling that they were surrounded by a protective wire 
'barrage, which constituted a soothing influence not to 
'be under-estimated. It was highly important that the 
'psychological effect of the enemy air raids, so harmful to 
'the morale in Germany, and to the work in the areas in 
'which armaments were produced, should be countered as 
'far as possible.'^ 

In the opening months of 191 7 the Luxeuil naval 
bombers were handicapped by the weather. Even when 
conditions were otherwise favourable, the valleys in which 
the German industrial works were situated were often 
shrouded in mist. Furthermore, when the cold was severe, 
as it was during most of February 191 7, there was trouble 
due to freezing oil because the hangars on the advanced 
aerodrome at Ochey were not heated. What was possible 
was done to keep the aeroplanes warm enough for fly- 
ing, but a few only could normally be kept serviceable. 
There was a raid, on the 23rd of January, by ten escorted 
bombers on the blast furnaces at Burbach, another on 
the same objective by thirteen bombers on the 25th of 
February, by ten again on the 4th of March, and by six on 
the 22nd of March. There were attacks also, by six bombers, 
on the aerodrome at Morchingen(Morhange),on the i6th, 
and, during the ensuing night, by one Handley Page on 
^ Die Luftwacht, August 1928. 


the railway station at Moulin-les-Metz. In April, with 
two exceptions, the bombing was confined to single 
Handley Pages. On the 5th the railway junction at Arna- 
ville was attacked; on the 14th blast furnaces at Hagendin- 
gen; and, during the same night, the depot and aerodrome 
at Chambley. The only organized daylight attacks in April 
were made on the 14th on Freiburg in Breisgau when, in two 
raids, a total of twenty-three British aeroplanes (fifteen 
bombers), and fifteen French (six bombers), dropped two 
and a half tons of bombs, together with leaflets which said 
that the raid was a reprisal for the sinking of the hospital 
ship Asturias by a German submarine.^ Three British 
two-seater aeroplanes failed to return from the raids, but 
all the French pilots reached home safely: it was after- 
wards known that four of the six missing British flying 
personnel had been killed. According to German informa- 
tion the bombs fell in the most thickly populated quarter 
of the city, and in any event the raid seems to have been a 
true 'reprisal' because there is no record that a military 
objective was given to the pilots: their reports make note 
of 'a reprisal raid on the centre of the town'. 

The Luxeuil bombing wing was broken up in the spring 
of 191 7 in order that help might be given to the Royal 
Flying Corps. What remained of the wing was withdrawn, 
in May 191 7, to. complete the equipment of No. 10 (Naval) 
Squadron for service with the armies on the Western front. 
The Admiralty were influenced, when they agreed to dis- 
band the wing, by what Sir Douglas Haig had to say about 
the results of the raids made by the naval bombers. The 
main concern of the Board, as has been stated, was to 
reduce the output from such German steel works as were 
within striking distance, and Commodore Godfrey Paine, 
the Fifth Sea Lord, asked Sir Douglas Haig if he had any 
information to show whether the bombing of blastfurnaces 
had restricted the output of steel as much as had been 

^ The Asturias, showing full regulation lights, had been torpedoed off 
Start Point at midnight on the 20th of March 1917 with a loss of 50 lives. 
The raid was also a reprisal for a torpedo attack on the hospital ship 
Gloucester Castle, on the 30th of March, when 3 lives were lost. Both ships 
were towed into port. 


claimed, to which Sir Douglas Haig replied: 'No such in- 
'formation has reached me, and it would, therefore, appear 
'highly improbable that the output has been seriously 
'affected.' The Fifth Sea Lord then asked if the naval 
bombing operations had drawn German aeroplanes away 
from the British front, to which the answer was a definite 
'No'. Although the number of German squadrons opposite 
No. 3 Wing might have increased, said Sir Douglas Haig, 
the explanation would be that there had been a general 
expansion all along the front, and particularly opposite the 

There is not much doubt that Sir Douglas Haig objected 
to an independent naval air detachment operating from 
French soil against what he considered to be military 
targets. Writing to the War Office in November 191 6, he 
had pointed out that the imperative need was for squadrons 
in the battle line where they could affect the issue of the 
battle. 'Long-distance bombing', he had said, 'as a means 
'of defeating the enemy is entirely secondary to the above 
'requirements. Its success is far more doubtful, and even 
'when successful both theory and practice go to show that 
'usually its results are comparatively unimportant.' 

With our fuller knowledge it is clear that the effect pro- 
duced by the naval bombing wing was disproportionate 
to the number of raids, which were comparatively in- 
frequent and are not to be judged by the material results. 
The British and French bombing attacks went some way 
to shake the morale of the industrial population and had 
an adverse effect on the output of munitions of war, but 
chiefly they compelled the Germ.ans to divert aeroplanes, 
labour, and material to the beginnings of widespread 
schemes of home defence. 

The Forty-first Wing 

The next step in the bombing of Germany by British 
aircraft was taken in consequence of the night aeroplane 
attacks on London which began in September 191 7. It 
has been recounted in an earlier volume^ how the War 
Cabinet decided, in consequence, to wage a counter- 
I Vol. V, pp. 88, 90-1. 


offensive against targets in Germany. It happened that at 
the beginning of September a hundred Russian pilots were 
under training in England and that fifty D.H.4 aeroplanes 
for these pilots were being built to the order of the Russian 
Government. Because the winter season was approaching, 
when operations would be at a standstill on the Russian 
front, and because the D.H.4's would be a welcome addi- 
tion to our own strength, the British Government asked 
Russia to forgo delivery of these fifty aeroplanes on con- 
dition that seventy-five in their place would be supplied in 
the spring of 1 9 1 8 . With this proposal the Russian Govern- 
ment agreed, and it was partly because of the Russian 
Vindfair, as it was called, that the British War Cabinet 
considered that it was in a position to initiate long-range 
bombing operations against Germany.^ 

Major-General Trenchard was instructed, at the begin- 
ning of October, to take immediate action against German 
objectives which could be reached from the neighbourhood 
of Nancy, and he at once formed a special unit, the Forty- 
first Wing, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel 
C. L. N. Newall. The squadrons which made up the Wing 
were Nos. 55 (D.H.4) ^^^ day-bombing, and 100 (F.E.2b) 
for night bombing, both withdrawn from the British front, 
and No. 16 Naval Squadron, of night-bombing Handley 
Pages, which represented the Admiralty contribution to 
the long-range bombing operations. ^ A normal load of 
bombs was twelve of 1 12-lb. weight carried by each Hand- 
ley Page, and two of the same weight by the D.H.4's 
and the F.E.2b's.3 The head-quarters of the wing v/ere 

^ The engines for the Russian D.H4's were Fiats, bought by Russia in 
Italy. The Fiat D.H4's were not employed for the independent bombing 
operations into Germany, but their employment elsewhere on the Western 
front released Rolls-Royce D.H.4's. 

2 No. 16 (Naval) Squadron, originally called 'A' Squadron and, after- 
wards (from the ist of April 191 8), No. 216 Squadron, was specially formed 
at Manston: the Handley Pages with which the squadron was originally 
equipped were taken off anti-submarine patrol duties. They were flown 
to Ochey, under the leadership of Squadron Commander K. S. Savory, 
in the middle of October. 

3 Bombs of 230-lb. weight were often carried and, sometimes, of 25-lb. 
or 40-lb. weight. The last named were phosphorous bombs. 


established at Bainville-sur-Madon on the nth of October, 
and the aerodrome for the three squadrons was situated 
at Ochey where also two French squadrons were housed. 
Plans for the employment of the bombers had to be 
carefully considered. The easterly limit of the area which 
might come under attack was roughly the line Cologne- 
Frankfurt-Stuttgart, about 125 miles distant from the 
existing trench line in the neighbourhood of Ochey. Within 
this area lay many vital industries. Therewere the coal and 
iron fields of Lorraine and the Saar, the great chemical 
works of the Badische Anilin- und Soda- Fabrik at Mann- 
heim and Oppau, and many miscellaneous factories engaged 
on war production, such as aircraft engines, locomotives and 
rolling stock, submarine parts, and magnetos. The targets 
offered by the coal industry were difficult ones, but the 
iron works, more especially those with blast furnaces, stood 
out with some prominence and were, moreover, sensitive 
to bombing because damage to vital parts, say to the blast 
furnaces or the power stations, would mean that the works 
would be put out of action for an appreciable time. Ger- 
many had to rely upon the Lorraine and Luxembourg 
areas for nearly eighty per cent, of her supplies of iron ore, 
much of which, variously estimated between 20 and 50 
per cent., was smelted locally. The view of the French 
general staif was that the iron industry, on which the 
German war effort largely depended, was the most impor- 
tant target open to the bombers, and that it could best be 
attacked by blocking the railways by which the iron ore 
was transported. In this way the whole output, including 
that which passed eastwards into Germany for treatment, 
might come under attack. The French plan, therefore, 
which had been officially adopted in the summer of 191 7, 
aimed at the systematic bombing of the stations on the 
periphery of the iron basins, namely, Metz-Sablons, Metz- 
Woippy, Conflans-Longuyon, Athus-Pettingen, and, above 
all, Thionville and Bettembourg. It was calculated that 
some 10,600 trucks, of fifteen tons, were transported 
through these junctions daily, about half taking the ore to 
the works on the right bank of the Moselle, to Westphalia, 
and to the Rhine, and the other half returning to the 


Lorraine and Luxembourg mines to be loaded. If the eight 
key junctions could be blocked the isolation of the iron 
deposits would be attained. 

As soon as the Forty-first Wing arrived at Ochey, the 
commander-in-chief of the French armies of the north and 
north-east wrote to Sir Douglas Haig outlining the French 
bombing plan and asking whether the British bombing 
squadrons could be instructed to co-operate as occasion 
offered. Sir Douglas Haig replied that the British aero- 
planes at Ocheyhadfor their principal mission 'long-range 
'attacks on German commercial towns as reprisals for enemy 
*air raids on Allied towns'. He went on to say: 'While the 
'British pilots are learning the country they will be able to 
'carry out attacks on targets in the Sarrebruck area, but 
'not in the Briey-Longwy area which lies outside the line 
'of approach to their main objectives. As soon as the 
'British pilots have learned the country sufficiently to find 
'their way to the Rhine by night, they will be able to co- 
'operate in attacks on targets in the Briey-Longwy area as 
'well, whenever the weather is not settled enough for long- 
'distance raids into Germany. The officer commanding 
'the Forty-first Wing, Royal Flying Corps, who commands 
'the British air forces at Ochey, is being instructed to place 
'himself in communication with the general officer com- 
'manding the French Group of Armies of the East and to 
'carry out the latter's instructions as regards co-operation 
'within the limits stated above.' 

Comment must be made about the word 'reprisals' em- 
ployed by Sir Douglas Haig. It is obvious that he was 
using the term in a popular and not a legal sense. A reprisal 
strictly means that a violation of the laws of warfare is 
answered by a similar violation. So long as the German 
bombers attacked definite military targets, such as, for in- 
stance, Woolwich Arsenal or other munition factories, or 
naval dockyards, it could not be seriously adduced that 
they were violating the rules of warfare. Reprisals were 
popularly called for because, whatever may have been the 
intent, the German bombs dropped on England seldom 
found military targets, but exploded instead among the 
civihan population. The British counter-bombing offensive 


cannot properly be associated with the word ^reprisals' 
because the bombing was not directed against the German 
people. The objectives, as will be made clear in this 
narrative, were chosen for their importance in the system 
of German war production and military transport. 

The bombing campaign of the Forty-first Wing was 
opened on the 17th of October 1917 by eight D.H.4's of 
No. 55 Squadron which attacked the Burbach works near 
Saarbriicken, an objective which had often been visited by 
the naval bombers of the Luxeuil Wing. A German official 
report of the attack reads : 'Three bombs fell on the rail- 
way behind the eastern coke ovens, near a condensing 
tower, and in front of the foundry casino. Damage resulted 
to the railway lines, the walls of the condensing tower, and 
especially to the casino buildings and to neighbouring 
houses belonging to officials of the company: damage 
17,000 marks.' The night raids began, in bad weather, on 
the evening of the 24th of October when nine Handley 
Pages of 'A' Naval Squadron, and fourteen F.E.2b's of No. 
100 Squadron, again attacked the Burbach works, as well 
as targets along the railway line between Falkenburg and 
Saarbriicken. Pilots, some of whom dropped their bombs 
from a few hundred feet, reported that the town of Saar- 
briicken was well illuminated. Two of the Handley Pages 
and two F.E.2b's failed to return from this first raid. On 
the night of the 30th/3ist of October twelve F.E.2b's 
attacked the steel works and the station at Volklingen. A 
number of hits were made on the sheds, and the damage 
was estimated by the Germans at 47,646 marks. 

The weather in November was unfavourable for long- 
distance operations and, except for a raid made on the ist 
by No. 55 Squadron on Kaiserslautern, no bombing attacks 
were undertaken. The Germans, however, twice bombed 
the aerodrome at Ochey during the month. The first time, 
in a mist, on the I5th/i6th, and again on the 22nd/23rd. 
On the second occasion three small bombs hit an aeroplane 
shed and damaged three aeroplanes. 

The most notable raid in December, when the weather 
was again generally unfavourable, took place on Christmas 
Eve when ten D.H.4's of No 55 Squadron, in two forma- 


tions,^ made a first attack by British pilots on Mannheim at 
midday (objectives: factories and railways); one of the 
D.H.4's was forced to land and the occupants were made 
prisoners. According to German official reports no military 
damage was inflicted by this attack, but two civilians 
were killed and twelve wounded. 

The aerodrome at Ochey was twice bombed during 
December, on the evening of the 4th and once more on the 
5th. The first of these attacks caused much damage, both 
on the British and French sections of the aerodrome. Two 
heavy bombs hit the French sheds, with the result that ten 
French aeroplanes were destroyed and seventeen damaged. 
In his report about the German bombing attack, the 
officer commanding No. 100 Squadron wrote: 'The con- 
'tents of one large French hangar were well ablaze, and 
Ve sent over as many fire extinguishers as we could spare 
Vith a voluntary fire picquet under some officers and the 
'sergeant-major who managed finally to extinguish the 
'fire, but not until several machines had been burnt out.' 
The main damage in the British section of the aerodrome 
was the demolition of part of No. 100 Squadron's work- 

The attacks on the aerodrome of the British and French 
bombers seemed to presage an intensive campaign to 
hamper the bombing offensive against Germany, but 
they proved to be isolated occurrences and the bomb- 
ing squadrons were subsequently little worried in this way. 
The French had requested that the British bombing 
squadrons should refrain from attacking German aero- 
dromes, but after the Germans had bombed Ochey for the 
third time the French outlook changed. At first, however, 
the French stipulated that the bombing should be confined 
to the aerodromes from which the enemy set out to attack 
Ochey, but this proved an impossible condition because 
it could never be said with certainty which enemy aero- 
drome was being used for any particular raid. 

^ No. 55 Squadron normally adopted a Flight formation of six aeroplanes 
in a triangle : two such Flights formed a squadron formation and they worked 
in close touch under one leader. On this occasion two pilots had had to 
return with engine trouble. 


On the 1st of February 191 8 the bombing force was 
raised to the status of a brigade under the command of 
Brigadier-General C. L. N. Newall. This Brigade — the 
VIII — had been formed on the 28th of December 1917, 
but it did not begin work as such until the ist of February 
191 8 when an independent head-quarters was opened in 
the Chateau de Froville, near Bayon. 

A detailed account of the bombing operations by the 
various squadrons would make tedious reading, and for a 
full list of the attacks on industrial and railway targets the 
student may refer to Appendix XIII. Until May 191 8 the 
one day squadron, No. 55, and the two night squadrons, 
Nos. 16 (Naval) and 100, continued to be responsible for 
all the long-distance attacks, but in that month they were 
reinforced by two squadrons equipped with D.H.9 aero- 
planes. One of these was No. 99 Squadron,^ which was 
taken on the strength of the Forty-first Wing on the 27th 
of April, but did not arrive from England until the 3rd of 
May after being delayed on the way by bad weather. The 
squadron made its first raid on the 21st of May when 
six pilots bombed the Metz-Sablon railway triangle, an 
objective frequently visited by the independent bombing 
squadrons. The railway at Metz was an important key 
point in the German lines of communication. There were 
great stores sheds adjacent to the railway and, furthermore, 
there was always an appreciable collection of locomotives 
and rolling-stock in the sidings of the Metz-Sablon triangle. 
On the 9th of June twelve pilots of No. 99 Squadron 
bombed steel works and blast furnaces at Dillingen. The 
other D.H.9 squadron was No. 104, which arrived from 
England on the 19th of May and made its first attack on 
the 8th of June on the Metz-Sablon triangle. 

In all, between the 17th of October 191 7, when the first 
raid was made, and the 5th of June, that is, the day before 
the formation of the Independent Force proper, the British 
bombing squadrons made fifty-seven raids, and the objec- 
tives included specified targets in Karlsruhe, Mannheim, 

^ An authentic account of the activities of this squadron is contained 
in the History ofgg Squadron, by Squadron Leader L. A. Pattinson, D.S.O., 
M.C., D.F.C. 

I9I8] NO. 55 SQUADRON 129 

. Cologne, Mainz, Stuttgart, Coblenz, Thionville, and Saar- 

The activities and the spirit of No. 55 Squadron may 
well be illustrated hy 3l brief account of operations during 
some days of fair weather in March 191 8. After being held 
down on its aerodrome by snow and rain for a fortnight, 
the squadron made a first visit to Mainz — 116 miles be- 
yond the lines — on the 9th of March. The objectives were 
factories, barracks, and railways, which were attacked at 
12.25 p.m. from 13,000 feet, by ten D.H.4's in two forma- 
tions, and photographs taken by the bombers showed 
bursts and fires among warehouses near the river and in 
and near the central railway station. A subsequent notice 
issued by the Cologne police, advising the inhabitants of 
the town to take cover when air raid alarms were given, 
instanced the attack on Mainz which, it was stated, had 
resulted in many deaths. 

The pilots were out again next day on their way to 
Stuttgart, which lay 104 miles beyond the lines. Eleven 
D.H.4's crossed the trenches, in two formations, at 10,000 
feet, their main objective being the Daimler motor works 
outside the town. All pilots reached and bombed their 
target, and although air photographs showed no direct 
hits, it was reliably reported that the works, together with 
some aero-engines, had been damaged.^ Immediately after 
the bombs had been dropped, three German aeroplanes 
appeared, and their pilots kept up a long-range attack 
for some time. One D.H.4, which was forced by engine 
trouble to break formation, was repeatedly assailed by the 
enemy aeroplanes, but the pilot reached his aerodrome 
with a wounded observer and a petrol tank holed by bullets. 
Another D.H.4 ^^^ forced down in enemy territory and 
its two occupants were made prisoners. 

On the 1 2th of March the squadron made a first raid on 
Coblenz, 130 miles over the lines. The town (objectives: 
factories, barracks, and railway) was reached at midday by 
nine pilots, and bombs were released from 13,500 feet, but 
there was a haze and the bursts were not clearly seen. It 

^ The German records show that the bombs fell close to the works and 
caused damage valued at 80,000 marks : five civilians were wounded. 

2504.6 K 


was reported at the time that the bombs fell in the town 
and caused fires and casualties. German records show that 
one bomb exploded in the barracks among a company of 
soldiers lined up to receive their midday meal and that 
four of the soldiers were killed and twelve wounded. The 
total casualties, including civilians, were nine killed and 
sixty-one wounded, but the damage was not great. Attacks 
by five German fighters immediately after the raid were 
repulsed by the bombers. A letter written by an eye- 
witness, and later found on the body of a dead soldier on 
the Western front, referred to the great havoc caused in 
the town and concluded: 'We have lived through terrible 
'hours in the last day. Oh, my God, if only this misery was 
'at an end, this useless murder of men.' Great numbers of 
letters, written in a similar strain, fell into the hands of 
the British infantry. It would be unwise to lay undue 
stress upon them, but there is little doubt that they had 
some influence on the morale of the German troops, who 
were thus made aware of the extent of the British bombing 
offensive, and who received exaggerated accounts of its 
results. That the air war was being carried increasingly 
into Germany, and that the German air service was, 
apparently, powerless to prevent this, was not calculated 
to improve the spirit of the soldiers at the front. 

The target next day, the 13th of March, was Freiburg 
in Breisgau, which was attacked by eight D.H.4's. The 
objectives were munition works, barracks, and railways, but 
the accuracy of the attack was affected by a fierce onslaught 
which was made by about fifteen German fighters over the 
town, as a result of which three of the D.H.4's were shot 
down. The majority of the bombs fell in the neighbour- 
hood of the railway station and they caused appreciable 
damage, and injury to five persons: among the buildings 
hit by stray bombs were a church and a hospital. 

On the i6thofMarch twelve D.H.4's of No. 55 Squadron 
were ordered to bomb the Badische chemical works at 
Mannheim, but four pilots turned back with engine 
trouble, and another because of damage by enemy aircraft 
which attacked the formation on its outward journey. 
As heavy cloud banks lay along the route the bombs were 


dropped on Zweibriicken. Another attempt to reach 
Mannheim was made next morning hy ten pilots who 
found the Rhine valley obscured hy fog and therefore 
bombed the alternative targets, factories and railway at 
Kaiserslautern, instead: thirteen of the eighteen bombs 
dropped fell in the town and it is known that the damage, 
to factories and houses, was considerable (estimated by 
the Germans at 123,666 marks) and that there were 
numerous casualties. Next day, the 1 8th, Mannheim was 
reached and bombed by nine pilots, and photographs 
showed bursts near the buildings of the Badische works 
which were the main objective. It was afterwards known 
that one bomb fell on a machine shop and caused slight 
damage, and that another, a phosphorous bomb, hit a 
building in which cotton waste was stored: the store 
burned for several hours and was destroyed. The civilian 
casualties were four killed and ten wounded. 

We may conclude this brief notice of the operations of 
No. 55 Squadron with a further reference to their work 
on three days in May. On the i6th twelve pilots bombed 
Saarbriicken and had a running fight with double their 
number during which one D.H.4 fell in flames and observers 
in three others were wounded, while three German fighters 
fell out of control. In spite of the intense opposition of the 
German fighters this attack was one of the most successful 
made on the railway system at Saarbriicken, where all 
traffic was brought to a standstill for eight hours. One 
bomb wrecked a shunting engine in which the driver was 
killed, rails were torn up on three tracks, the main work- 
shops received two direct hits and suffered much damage, 
a water-main was broken, a footbridge destroyed, two 
stationary trains were damaged, twelve soldiers were killed 
and forty-nine injured, and signals, telegraph, and tele- 
phone installations were destroyed. 

On the following afternoon twelve pilots of the squadron 
attacked the railway at Metz-Sablon. The bombs fell 
chiefly in the station and in the station square. At the 
time the attack was made a visit was expected from high 
military officers, and a guard of honour, mounted and dis- 
mounted, was in waiting. In the station square thirty 


soldiers and civilians were killed and wounded and several 
horses were killed, and in the station itself a bomb which 
exploded alongside a standing train was responsible for the 
death of eleven officers and for injury to forty-six soldiers. 

Next day, the i8th of May, No. 55 Squadron made 
a long-distance raid on Cologne. The town had not been 
attacked by British aeroplanes by day since October 1914, 
when a naval pilot had dropped small bombs from a 
single-seater aeroplane. It had, however, suffered a night 
attack on the 24th/25th of March by a Handley Page from 
No. 16 (Naval) Squadron. The attack of No. 55 Squadron 
on the 1 8th of May, made by six D.H.4's, was led by 
Captain F. Williams. The pilots left their aerodrome at 
Tantonville^ at 6.35 a.m., and two and a half hours later 
reached Cologne, which was bombed from 14,500 feet 
(objectives: railways and factories). The town was taken 
by surprise because the observation service had broken 
down, with the result that the inhabitants had received 
no sort of air raid warning. In consequence, the casualties 
were high, some forty persons being killed and about one 
hundred injured. Serious damage was done to thirty-eight 
buildings to a total value of 340,000 marks. The D.H.4's 
were three times attacked, and one observer, after shooting 
down an enemy aeroplane, was mortally wounded. There 
were reactions to this raid similar to those which had 
followed the more important German attacks on England. 
Questions were asked in the Reichstag, and anxiety spread 
to all the Rhineland towns. It is significant also that after 
this first daylight attack in force on Cologne, it was urged 
in many responsible quarters in Germany that steps should 
be taken by the German Government to agree with the 
Allies to abandon or limit bombing attacks from the air.^ 

The night-bombing squadrons, although their attacks 
were less spectacular than those of the day bombers, exerted 
a greater general moral effect. In the daytime the people 

^ No. 55 Squadron had moved to Tantonville on the 7th of November 

^ The German official records confirm that this attack made a deep 
impression. They also give varying numbers for the casualties, the highest 
figures being 41 killed, 83 severely wounded, and 40 lightly wounded. 


on the ground could see the worst. The raiders came in 
formation, dropped their bombs and went, or else were 
merely on passage to some other objective. In any event, 
the danger period was set between limits which were fairly 
clearly defined. At night, however, there was no defini- 
tion. The bombers did not attack in formation, but moved 
about singly, at irregular intervals of time, and they usually 
flew at low heights, making a noise that was full of menace. 
All over the area within range of the British bombers, 
people received the air raid warning and had to take what- 
ever precautionary measures had been ordered, perhaps 
dozens of times for every attack their particular town or 
works suffered. It was the 'alarms', more than the specific 
attacks, which led to idleness, temporary or prolonged, and 
therefore lowered output, and it was at night that it v/as 
difificult to keep the alarms within a reasonable relation to 
the possible danger. 

The two-seater F.E.2b night bombers of No. 100 
Squadron attacked medium-distance targets, mostly up to 
about seventy miles distant on the enemy side of the trenches, 
while the three-seater Handley Pages of No. 16 (Naval) 
Squadron had the endurance to reach the important towns 
in the Rhineland area. 

On the night of the 24th/25th of March No. 100 
Squadron made one of the more successful of its many 
attacks on the German railway communications. The 
objective wasMetz-Sablon,on which bombs were dropped 
intermittently by twelve F.E.zb's. A German report on 
the results of the attack reads as follows : 'Last night from 
'8.55 p.m. onwards hostile aircraft appeared over Metz. 
'The fall of bombs, so far confirmed, was as follows : Several 
'(incendiary) fell on a goods train standing on the main 
'track No. 6 (eastern arm of the Metz-Sablon triangle) in 
'the station. Fifteen trucks caught fire and seven munition 
'wagons among them exploded. Tracks Nos. 6 and 16 were 
'very extensively damaged and others suffered in addition 
'(in all twenty lines). Two vv^agons were hurled to the 
'right and left by the force of the explosion, one striking 
'a corner house near the railway, the other landing near the 
'Metz-Frescaty road and destroying a small house. Seven 


'houses in all were seriously damaged. Portions of the 
'debris struck the most northerly gasometer at the apex 
'of the triangle and damaged it very extensively. The 
'force of the explosion was so great that the building south 
'of the gasometer had its roof blown off, while exploding 
'shells damaged the machinery. As a result of this explosion, 
'traffic was held up on the main Bensdorf-Courcelles- 
'Metz-Thionville line for several hours. The moral effect 
'of this raid was very great. Nothing approaching this had 
'happened before and as a result all the houses bordering 
'the railway were evacuated by order.' 

Towards the end of March 191 8 General de Castelnau, 
commanding the French Eastern Group of Armies, asked 
that the two British night-bombing squadrons should be 
placed temporarily at his disposal in order that he might 
employ them to attack the railway communications in 
the Chalons-sur-Marne sector where it appeared that the 
Germans were concentrating for an offensive. British head- 
quarters agreed, and on the ist of April Nos. 100 and 
216 Squadrons, together with the Forty-first Wing head- 
quarters, moved to Villeseneux, near Rheims, where they 
came under the orders of the Commandant, French Avia- 
tion. The squadrons, however, were not favoured with 
fair weather, and bombing attacks could be made only on 
six nights up to the 9th of May when the period of attach- 
ment to the French ended. ^ 

On the night of the I7th/i8th of May Nos. 100 and 
216 Squadrons, returned from the French area, attacked 
Thionville where appreciable damage was caused and 
twenty-five soldiers and ten civilians were killed. In an 
attack by three Handley Pages of No. 216 Squadron on the 
chemical works at Mannheim on the night of the 21st/ 
22nd of May, a bomb broke a gas main in the Oppau section 
of the works, and as a result the factory had to close for two 
days. This was the only occasion in the war when the 
Oppau section of the Badische chemical works had to cease 
activity as a result of air raid damage. 

On the morning of the 31st of May there was a success- 
ful attack by No. 55 Squadron on the railway station, and 
I See Vol. IV, pp. 283-4. 


on a munition factory, in the town of Karlsruhe. Eleven 
D.H.4's, led by Captain F. Williams, flew towards Mann- 
heim, with the intention to bomb the Badische works, 
but as heavy cloud banks were encountered over the Vosges 
the leader decided to make his attack on Karlsruhe. The 
town was reached about 8.0 a.m. and twenty-two bombs of 
1 1 2-lb. weight were dropped on the station and on factories. 
Photographs which were taken at the time showed one bomb 
bursting in a known munitions factory. German official 
documents reveal that the factory was blown up, that the 
station was hit, and that the total damage was valued at 
700,000 marks : the casualties were four people killed, and 
seventy-four injured. About fourteen German aeroplanes 
were encountered by the bombers near Karlsruhe and one 
of the enemy pilots, with fine daring, dived through the 
formation and shot down a D.H.4 in flames. 

The Indefendent Force 

The Independent Force, under the command of Major- 
General Sir H. M. Trenchard, came into being officially 
on the 6th of June 1918,^ and comprised the two wings 
which made up the VIII Brigade, namely, the Forty-first 
(day squadrons Nos. 55, 99, and 104) and the Eighty-third 
(night squadrons Nos. 100 and 216). Treparatory work on 
'the construction of aerodromes,' says Major-General 
Trenchard, 'with a view to accommodating a larger force, 
'had been undertaken before my arrival, and had been 
'handled with zeal and tact by the General Officer Com- 
'manding the VIII Brigade. The work accomplished by 
'General Newall formed a foundation upon which I was 
'at once able to build in making arrangements to accom- 
'modate an increased number of squadrons. . . . My first 
'work was to at once push on and arrange for the accom- 
'modation of a force of sixty squadrons. . . . This work was 
'practically completed by the ist November, 191 8.' 

Major-General Trenchard's ideas for the employment 
of the Independent Force are well summarized in the 

* Major-General Trenchard had arrived in the Nancy area on the 20th 
of May. He took over the tactical command of the Force on the 5th of 
June, and the administrative and complete control on the 15th of June. 


dispatch from which the above quotation is taken. ^ 'The 
'question I had to decide', he says, 'was how to use this 
'Force in order to achieve the object, i.e. the break-down of 
'the German Army in Germany, its Government, and the 
'crippHng of its sources of supply. 

'The two main alternative schemes were : 
'i. A sustained and continuous attack on one large 
'centre after another until each centre was destroyed, 
'and the industrial population largely dispersed to 
'other towns; or 
'2. To attack as many of the large industrial centres as 
'it was possible to reach with the machines at my 
'I decided on the latter plan, for the following reasons : 
'(i) It was not possible with the forces at my disposal to 
'do sufficient material damage so as to completely 
'destroy the industrial centres in question, 
'(ii) It must be remembered that, even had the Force 
'been still larger, it would not have been practical 
'to carry this out unless the war had lasted for at 
'least another four or five years, owing to thelimita- 
'tions imposed on long-range bombing by the 
'weather. . . . 
'By attacking as many centres as could be reached, the 
'moral effect was first of all very much greater, as no town 
'felt safe, and it necessitated continued and thorough 
'defensive measures on the part of the enemy to protect 
'the many different localities over which my force was 
'operating. At present the moral effect of bombing stands 
'undoubtedly to the material effect in a proportion of 
'20 to I, and therefore it was necessary to create the greatest 
'moral effect possible. . . . 

'My Intelligence Department provided me with the 
'most thorough information on all targets such as gas 
'factories, aeroplane factories, engine factories, poison-gas 
'factories, &c., each target having a complete detailed and 
'illustrated plan, and maps were prepared of every target 
'that was within reach. These were supplemented in a 

^ Dispatch of Major-General Sir H. M. Trenchard, dated ist January, 


'large way by the aerial photographs taken by reconnais- 
'sance machines. 

'Before it was possible to attack Germany successfully 
'it was necessary to attack the enemy's aerodromes heavily 
'in order to prevent his attacking our aerodromes by night, 
'and by destroying his machines to render his attacks by 
'day less efficacious. I considered that it was probable 
'during the spring and early summer of 191 9 that at least 
'half my force would be attacking the enemy's aerodromes, 
'whilst the other half carried out attacks on long-distance 
'targets in Germany. . . . 

'I also had to decide, when it was impossible for squadrons 
'to reach their objectives well in the interior of Germany, 
'what alternative objective should be attacked, and which 
'attacks would have the greatest effect in hastening the end 
'of hostilities. I decided that railways were first in order of 
'importance, and next in importance the blast furnaces. 

'The reason of my decision was that the Germans were 
'extremely short of rolling stock, and also some of the main 
'railways feeding the German Army in the West passed 
'close to our front, and it was hoped that these com- 
'munications could be seriously interfered with, and the 
'rolling stock and trains carrying reinforcements or reliefs 
'or munitions destroyed. They were also fairly easy to find 
'at night. 

'I chose blast furnaces for the second alternative targets, 
'as they were also easy to find at night, although it was 
'difficult to do any really serious damage to them owing to 
'the smallness of the vital part of the works. . . .' 

With one possible exception,^ the results justified 
Major-General Trenchard's policy. In the light of our 
later knowledge it would be difficult to suggest how the 
few independent bombing squadrons might have been 
more effectively employed. The German people in 191 8 
were suffering from war weariness, fostered, among other 
things, by short rations and by Allied propaganda. It is 
true that the Germans were stimulated by the offensive 
which began on the Somme on the 21st of March, but 
when that offensive came to its indecisive end, and when 

^ See the section on aerodrome bombing, pp. 158-64. 


the subsequent onslaughts in Flanders, and against the 
French armies, were seen to follow a similar course, the 
war weariness returned, and it increased sharply after 
the defeat inflicted on the enemy as a result of the British 
Amiens attack on the 8th of August. That is to say, the 
nerves of the German people, during the time the In- 
dependent Force was operating, were at a tension which 
ensured a maximum moral eifect from bombing attacks.^ 
The more these were spread, therefore, the greater that 
eifect must be. 

If it be suggested that better results might have been 
obtained had the bombing been directed more against 
German industrial targets, the answer is that what could 
be done was limited by technical equipment, and by the 
capacity of the flying personnel. The makeshift bombers 
with which the operations had to be conducted were of 
limited range, and they could not be sent out to the limit 
without account being taken of the weather and general 
conditions. Nor could a bombing squadron be sent into 
action immediately it arrived at the front from England. 
It was desirable that three or four weeks should be allotted 
for final training, and when the squadron was judged to be 
ready for service flying, it was still necessary, as a begin- 
ning, to restrict the attacks to targets at short and medium 
distances. After weighing all the contemporary factors 
Major-General Trenchard had to be sure that what he 
asked of his pilots and observers was something they could 
do and keep doing. His aim was to avoid spectacular 
attacks with the danger or certainty that periods of in- 
activity during recovery would follow. His belief, firmly 
rooted, was that the most consistent military effect would 
come from a high level of general achievement. In this he 
was surely right, and his policy, judged by results, was 
well suited to his belief. 

The D.H.g's of No. 104 Squadron made their first attack 

^ In a conversation with the author, Archivrat Dr. Klemp, a war-time 
pilot subsequently responsible for research at the Reich sarchiv into military 
air operations, was emphatic in support of this view. Had the same attacks 
been made earlier in the war, he suggested, their moral effect would have 
been much less. 


in the early morning of the 8th of June when twelve pilots 
set out for the Metz-Sablon railway station. As soon as the 
bombing formation appeared over Metz it was attacked 
by three German fighters which continued to follow the 
bombers back to the lines. An observer in one of the 
D.H.9's was wounded, and one of the three German aero- 
planes went down, apparently in trouble. Nos. 99 and 104 
Squadrons attacked Metz again on the 12th of June when 
some of the bombs hit the artillery barracks and caused 
great damage as well as some casualties among soldiers. 
In a raid on Saarbriicken on the 24th of June, nine 
aeroplanes of No. 104 Squadron were attacked by four 
German fighters, one of which fell in flames through the 
British formation, narrowly missing one of the bombers : 
among the D.H.9's one pilot and two observers were 
wounded, but all returned safely. Saarbriicken was once 
more attacked, by No. 99 Squadron, a little later in the 
morning without opposition in the air. 

On the 25th of June all three day-bombing squadrons 
had hard fighting, but the objectives, at Saarbriicken, 
Offenburg, and Karlsruhe, were attacked, although one 
aeroplane from each squadron fell in Germany: a pilot of 
No. 104 Squadron, badly wounded in the right arm over 
Karlsruhe, brought his D.H.9 home and landed it safely. 
Karlsruhe was again attacked next day by all three squad- 
rons, but of the three formations of twelve aeroplanes each 
which set out, only twenty pilots reached the objective. 
German records show that damage was caused to buildings 
to the estimated value of 250,000 marks, and that a man 
was killed. During the night of the 26th/27th of June, 
damage was done to the Badische chemical works at Mann- 
heim by a Handley Page of No. 216 Squadron. On the 
29th, when ten D.H.4's of No. 55 Squadron attacked Mann- 
heim again, five people were killed and sixteen wounded, 
and damage to buildings estimated at 151,000 marks was 

Throughout the month of July the independent squad- 
rons attempted to reach Cologne, Stuttgart, and other 
distant industrial and military targets, but during half 
the month clouds lay thick over the Rhine valley and no 


attacks were possible. All efforts to reach Cologne failed, 
but Coblenz was bombed three times by day and Stutt- 
gart once by night. During a night attack on Mannheim, 
where the chemical works continued to be a favourite 
target, four bombs failed to release from their rack: they 
were eventually dislodged by the observer when the Hand- 
ley Page was passing over the town of Heidelberg. 

On the morning of the i6th of July twelve pilots of No. 
99 Squadron, in two formations, followed at a few minutes' 
interval by two similar formations of No. 55 Squadron, 
set out to bomb the Bosche and Daimler works at Stutt- 
gart, but thunderstorms encountered on the way led to 
the attack being made on Thionville station instead. All 
the pilots of No. 99 Squadron reached the objective, but 
some of No. 55 lost direction and six only attacked the 
target. This raid proved to be one of the most successful 
of its kind made by British aeroplanes in the war. It was 
known at the time, chiefly from the evidence of air photo- 
graphs, that great damage was inflicted. It is now possible 
to give, from German reports, details of the destruction. 
The German authorities estimated that about twenty 
bombs fell in the station (the total of bombs dropped were 
seven 230-lb., twenty 112-lb., eight 25-lb., and two 40-lb. 
phosphorous). A munition train received two hits and, as a 
result, fifteen trucks began to explode and some of them 
caught fire. Bursting shells fell upon six stationary am- 
munition trucks and these also began to explode. Shells 
were soon flying in all directions and they set fire to goods 
sheds and to the many loaded trucks standing in the sidings. 
In one of a number of sheds on a road opposite the railway 
station loose shells were stacked. It was not long before 
these also started to explode, with the further result that 
two nearby buildings, which housed small arms ammuni- 
tion and hand grenades, caught fire and were destroyed 
with their contents. Not far from the munitions train 
which had been hit at the beginning of the attack, a horse 
transport train, containing forage and other stores as well 
as horses, was standing: the train was wrecked and most 
of the horses were killed or wounded. Apart from the 
destruction of the goods sheds and station offices, five 


locomotives were damaged beyond repair, fifty trucks were 
destroyed and fifty more seriously damaged, and water 
mains, water towers, and rails were wrecked. The casualties 
were eighty-three military killed and wounded, and ten 
civilians killed. The public went to earth in cellars and 
dug-outs at 2.0 p.m. and did not dare, because of the 
exploding ammunition, to come out in the open again 
until after dark. 

On the night of the i6th/i7th of July nine F.E.ab's of 
No. 100 Squadron bombed blast furnaces at Hagendingen. 
One bomb pierced a tunnel, in use as an air raid shelter, 
leading from the offices to the railway. Nine workmen in 
the tunnel were killed and fourteen seriously injured, and 
a subsequent result was that the construction of elaborate 
dug-outs at various parts of the works was undertaken. 

There was a noticeable increase, during the month of 
July, in the opposition from German fighting forma- 
tions, and fifteen bombers were lost in air combat. The 
biggest fight took place on the 31st of July and involved 
D.H.9's of No. 99 Squadron, twelve of which had set out at 
5.30 a.m. for Mainz. Three of the pilots turned back with 
engine trouble before the trenches were reached, but the 
remainder went on their way until they came near Saar- 
briicken when they were attacked from above and below 
by about forty German fighters. The leader of the bomb- 
ing formation believed that it would be impossible, in face 
of the enemy opposition, to reach Mainz, and he decided 
to attack Saarbriicken instead. Four of the bombers were 
shot down before Saarbriicken was reached, but the five 
remaining pilots dropped their bombs on the railway. The 
German fighters continued to attack and two only of 
the D.H.9's recrossed the lines. The loss of fourteen 
experienced officers (five killed and nine prisoners) was a 
severe blow, and the squadron could not resume bombing 
raids until reinforcements had been given adequate train- 
ing in formation flying. The squadron records show that 
most of the pilots who had newly joined the squadron 
from England had arrived with little experience of flying 
in formation, and the success of day raiding depended on 
the efficacy with which formation could be kept. 


Nor was the D.H.9, with its 200 horse-power B.H.P. 
engine, a satisfactory aeroplane to fly. The engine, about 
which there had been trouble in the production stage, ^ 
was not reliable, and bombing formations of D.H.9's 
were apt to be very much reduced in strength before the 
lines were crossed, for the simple reason that the engines 
would not develop enough power to enable pilots to keep 
their station. Nor when flying at its best can it be said 
that the D.H.9, fitted with the B.H.P. engine, was good 
enough for really effective long-distance attacks by day- 
light, more particularly because its 'ceiling' was compara- 
tively low. Major-General Trenchard had been opposed 
to the employment of this aeroplane from the beginning, 
and even before the first of the type had been received in 
France he had spoken strong words on the matter to the 
members of the Air Board. He had warned them, in 
November 191 7, that the D.H.9 ^^^^ ^^^ B.H.P. engine 
would be out-of-date as a day bomber by June 191 8, and 
his prophecy was duly fulfilled.^ 

In August the Independent Force was increased by four 
squadrons. On the 9th, No. 97 (Handley Page) Squadron 
arrived from England, on the 19th, No. 215 (Handley 
Page) Squadron joined from the Expeditionary Force, and 
on the 31st, Nos. 115 (Handley Page) and no (D.H.9a) 
Squadrons arrived from England. No. 97 Squadron began 
active service operations on the 19th, and No. 215 on the 
22nd. During the month, also, the F.E.2b's of No. 100 
Squadron were gradually replaced by Handley Pages, the 
re-equipment of the squadron being completed early in 
September. By the end of August Major-General Tren- 
chard decided that the D.H.9's with B.H.P. engines could 
no longer be considered service type bombers, and that the 
losses which it must be expected they would suffer did not 
justify again sending them over the lines. ^ 

^ See pp. 37-8. 

^ Writing from France in June 1918, Major-General Trenchard said 
it was imperative to make every effort to replace the D.H.9'swithD.H.9a's, 
fitted with Liberty engines. 

2 It is of interest that in his report for October 191 8 dealing with the 
work of the Royal Air Force on the Western front, Major-General J. M. 
Salmond, pointing out that air operations depended upon the degree of 


Raids into Germany were made during August against 
Diiren, Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Coblenz, Karlsruhe, and 
Mannheim, by day, and against Cologne and Frankfurt 
by night. Frankfurt (objectives: factories and railway) 
was bombed, for the first time, by twelve D.H.4's of 
No. 55 Squadron on the 12th of August from a height 
of 14,000 feet. On the outward journey the formation 
was attacked over Mannheim by about forty fighters, and 
the attacks were maintained all the way to the objective 
and throughout the return journey. In spite of the hostile 
fighters, the bombers reached the town and returned safely 
with the loss of one observer killed by machine-gun fire : 
two enemy fighters were destroyed. According to German 
official reports the bombs fell in the centre of Frankfurt 
and caused damage valued at 500,000 marks. The casualties 
were sixteen killed and twenty-two wounded, and there 
were official complaints that the inhabitants did not take 
precautions as ordered: it was said that there was too 
much standing about in the streets, or rushing to door 
or window to see what was happening. Frankfurt was 
subsequently twice attacked during August by No. 216 
Squadron, at night, but no casualties were inflicted and 
the damage was not heavy. 

Darmstadt, another new objective, was bombed by ten 
pilots of No. 55 Squadron on the morning of the i6th of 
August. They had set out to attack munition works and 
the railway station at Cologne, with the Benz aircraft 
engine works at Mannheim as an alternative target if the 
weather proved unsuitable for the longer journey. Owing 
to massed clouds, visible in the direction of Cologne, the 
leader of the bombing formation decided to attack the 
alternative target, but on the way he became satisfied 
that he could get farther, and he therefore went on to 

air superiority attained, said: 'This is demonstrably true, at the present 
'time, of D.H.9 Squadrons with 200 B.H.P. engines, for although this 
'type of aeroplane has sufficient petrol, and oil, to enable it to reach objec- 
'tives 100 miles from the lines, its low ceiling, and inferior performance, 
'oblige it to accept battle when, and where, the defending forces choose, 
'with the practical result that raids tend to become restricted to those 
'areas within which protection can be afforded by the daily offensive 
'patrols of scout squadrons. . . .' 


Darmstadt where his target was the railway. The bombers 
were attacked on the homeward journey hy twenty German 
fighters, and three of the D.H.4's were shot down. German 
records show that the inhabitants of the town, w^ho were 
warned in good time, were quick and orderly in taking 
precautions, and that the casualties were few, namely, 
four killed and four wounded (damage 88,000 marks). 

A less ambitious raid by No. 55 Squadron on the 8th of 
August calls for mention. Twelve D.H.4's set out in the 
afternoon to attack the factories at Rombach, and although 
along much of the route cloud banks extended from 2,000 
to 14,000 feet, the formations, led by Captain B. J. Silly, 
reached and attacked their objectives. It is known that 
the twenty-four bombs dropped fell on or close to the 
works : two blast furnaces were damaged, and there were 
hits on the roUing-mills, with the result that the works had 
to be shut down for eight hours. 

A raid on Cologne had been attempted by twelve pilots 
of No. 55 Squadron on the ist of August, but when they 
arrived over their objective they had found the whole area 
obscured by clouds, and the leader of the formation had 
therefore continued to Diiren where all the bombs were 
dropped. The police at Diiren had received an air-raid 
warning, and they caused fire bells and church bells to be 
sounded, but the first bombs began to fall as the bells 
started to ring. The streets were consequently crowded 
with people who had rushed from house and factory to 
discover what was wrong, and as they had had no experience 
of bomb attacks there was consternation and panic. The 
reason they had not been drilled to take air-raid precau- 
tions was because the German authorities had not thought 
that Diiren, an unfortified city, was subject to danger. 
One bomb exploded near a municipal milk supply ofiice 
where many people were waiting. Ten persons were killed 
outright, six others mortally injured, and eighteen seriously 
injured. After this experience of a bomb attack arrange- 
ments were made to warn the inhabitants by means of 
electric sirens and other devices, and dug-outs were built 
in many parts of Diiren. There was, however, no second 
attack on the town, although the inhabitants were sub- 


sequently given the alarm many times when British aero- 
planes were in the neighbourhood. Cologne (objective: 
railway station) was reached on the night of the 2 1st /22nd 
of August by two Handley Pages of No. 216 Squadron. 
Six persons in the city were killed and ten injured, and 
damage was caused to twenty-two buildings to a total 
value estimated at about half a million marks. 

It may be remarked that the D.H.4's of No. 55 Squadron 
carried fuel sufficient for a journey of about five and a half 
hours, and that the raids made by the squadron in August 
to Diiren, Frankfurt, and Darmstadt, lasted between five 
and five and a half hours so that the bombers operated 
with little or no margin of safety. 

Six attacks were made during August on chemical works, 
notably those of the Badische firm at Mannheim. One 
of these attacks deserves special mention. Two Handley 
Pages of No. 215 Squadron (pilots. Captain W. B. Lawson 
and Lieutenant M. C. Purvis) left their aerodrome at 
8.0 p.m. on the 25th of August on the first attempt to be 
made by the squadron to attack the Badische works. One 
pilot approached the target from the north-west, through 
a searchlight barrage and under gun-fire, and, gliding down 
from 5,000 feet, made his attack from a height of 200 feet. 
The lights in the works had been put out, but the search- 
lights, in their attempts to find the bomber, were trained 
almost horizontally, and they clearly illuminated the works 
for the bombing crew. Many of the bombs (sixteen 1 12-lb. 
and ten 25-lb.) were seen to explode among the buildings, 
and when they had been released the pilot continued to fly 
low for some minutes while the machine-guns from the 
Handley Page traversed the area. The second pilot came 
in close behind the first and made a somewhat similar 
attack from 500 feet. Both aeroplanes returned safely to 
their aerodrome after a difficult journey through thunder- 
storms. The Germans in and near the works looked upon 
this attack as particularly daring, and their evidence was 
that the bombers only narrowly missed the tall factory 
chimneys. Many of the bombs, possibly as a result of the 
low height from which they were dropped, failed to ex- 
plode, but four which penetrated one of the buildings burst 

2504.6 T 


among a freezing-plant which could not be brought into 
action again for twelve days. In all, seventeen bombs fell 
in the Mannheim works and eighteen in the sister factory 
at Oppau, but the latter bombs did not, according to 
German information, cause serious damage. 

There was a steady increase during August in the amount 
of opposition encountered by the bombing formations, 
and, in combat, twenty-one British aeroplanes were lost. 
Six more failed to return from raids for reasons not due to 
fighting, and fifty-four were wrecked from various causes 
on the British side of the lines. No. 104 Squadron, on the 
way to Mannheim on the 22nd of August, was attacked by 
about forty enemy fighters, and two of the D.H.9's were 
shot down before the town was reached: fighting con- 
tinued over the target, but the bombers attacked their 
objectives, without inflictingserious damage. On the return 
journey, in further fierce fighting, five more D.H.g's were 
shot down. 

In September the weather conditions continued to be 
unsuitable for long-distance bombing, particularly when 
the phases of the moon would have favoured night flying. 
There were strong winds, low clouds, and much rain, 
and on nineteen days and eighteen nights no raids were 
attempted. The two squadrons which had joined the Inde- 
pendent Force at the end of August made their first attacks 
in September. No. no ( Squadron^ bombed 
Boulay aerodrome on the 14th, and No. 115 (Handley 
Page) Squadron made its first attack during the night of 
the i6th/i7th. During the month Stuttgart was bombed 
by day, Frankfurt and Mannheim were attacked by day 
and by night, and Karlsruhe, Kaiserslautern,^ Cologne, 
Bonn, and Mainz were bombed by night. 

An attack by five Handley Pages of No. 216 Squadron 
on the Burbach works during the night of the 2nd/3rd 

^ No. no was the first squadron to be equipped with the D.H.9a, 
fitted with the 400 horse-power Liberty engine (normal bomb load : three 
of ii2-lb. weight). The aeroplanes were the gift of His Serene Highness 
the Nizam of Hyderabad. 

^ German figures are available which show that in seven raids during the 
war property in Kaiserslautern was damaged to the total value of 2,700,000 


of September may be mentioned because of the known 
damage inflicted. One bomb, of 550-lb. weight, and some of 
Ii2-lb. weight, were seen from the aeroplane to make hits 
on buildings. German records show that eight bombs 
exploded in the works. Seven caused only minor damage 
to buildings and to railway trucks, but the eighth, possibly 
the heavy bomb, burst in a machinery and carpentry 
shop, which was destroyed. The damage was estimated at 
400,000 marks, greater than was caused by any other bomb 
which fell on the Burbach works during the war. 

On the morning of the 7th of September there was an 
attack on the Badische works at Mannheim by ten aero- 
planes of No. 104 Squadron and by eleven of No. 99 
Squadron. The formations from the two squadrons, led 
by Major L. A. Pattinson of No. 99 Squadron, were 
assailed throughout the journey. Soon after crossing the 
lines on the way out six or more enemy fighters attacked 
the rearmost aeroplanes, three of which were shot down. 
When the target was reached some fifteen enemy fighters 
attacked, but they did not prevent the bombers from flying 
across their objective and releasing their bombs, almost 
together, from a height of 10,000 feet. One of the bombers 
was shot down in the fighting over Mannheim, but the 
remainder flew safely home.^ Mannheim was bombed 
again, by day, by Nos. 55 and no Squadrons on the i6th, 
and, by night, by Nos. 100 and 216 Squadrons on the 
20th/2ist, but in neither instance was the damage impor- 
tant. The German casualties as a result of the two attacks 
were two killed and eleven wounded. In the day raid on 
the 1 6th, three of the bombers were shot down by German 
home defence pilots. 

On the night of the i6th/i7th of September seven 
Handley Pages from the various squadrons were lost. Five 
of these, of No. 215 Squadron, set out for Cologne and 
Mannheim, and one of them, after dropping bombs on a 
town which the pilot thought was Bonn, but which more 
likely was Cologne and its neighbourhood, landed in Holland 
with engine trouble. According to German official records 

^ German official records show that no casualties were caused by the 
bombing and that the damage was not great. 


the others were shot down by anti-aircraft gun-fire after 
various places had been bombed. The towns which suffered 
most were Saarbriicken and Treves, where damage to 
buildings totalled a value of 100,000 marks. In Treves 
three people were killed, but the only other casualties of 
the night were brought about by a Handley Page which 
was forced down near Dillingen. Careless handling, by a 
too curious spectator, of one of the bombs carried on the 
Handley Page led to an explosion which killed eight on- 
lookers, severely wounded nineteen, and lightly wounded 
twenty more. The number of rounds fired against the 
Handley Pages by the various German anti-aircraft guns 
during this night are listed in the German records : it is 
revealed that a total of 16,063 shells were expended over 
a wide area, and that 173 searchlights were in action. 

In the afternoon of the 25th of September eleven aero- 
planes of No. 1 10 Squadron bombed Frankfurt from 17,000 
feet. Some damage was caused to buildings (estimated at 
146,000 marks) and the casualties were one killed and seven 
wounded. There was fierce fighting over the town, during 
which two German aeroplanes were destroyed: four of the 
D.H.9a's failed to return, and in those which reached 
home one observer was dead and a pilot and an observer 
were wounded. 

At the request of Marshal Foch, many bomb attacks 
were made during September on railways in co-operation 
with attacks by the French and American armies. The 
plans to help the American attack on the St. Mihiel 
Salient on the 12th of September were: 

(i) Before the American offensive was timed to begin, 
the railways at Metz-Sablon, Thionville, Bettem- 
bourg, Ehrang, and Tetershen, and the aerodromes 
at Frescaty, Boulay, Montoy, and Buhl, were to be 
bombed by night and day. 
(ii) In the period of the artillery preparation, the 
bombing was to be concentrated on the railway 
systems at Metz-Sablon, Thionville, and Courcelles, 
and on the aerodromes at Frescaty, Boulay, and 


(iii) During the actual attack, the bombing was to be 
narrowed down to the railways at Metz-Sablon and 

The plans could not be executed because of bad weather. 
Before the American offensive began, and on the opening 
day — the 12th of September — little bombing was possible. 
During the night of the I2th/i3th, however, Metz- 
Sablon and Courcelles were heavily attacked, and the 
bombing continued, against the railway and the aerodrome 
objectives, until the night of the 1 6th/ 17th. In this period 
sixty-one tons of bombs were dropped, about half of them 
on the Metz-Sablon railway triangle. 

On the 23rd of September Major-General Trenchard 
received a letter from Marshal Foch in which particulars 
were given of an offensive to be made by French and 
American troops from Verdun to the river Suippes. The 
Generalissimo requested the Independent Force to co- 
operate by bombing railway junctions, particularly 
M^zieres. The Allied offensive began at 5.0 a.m. on the 
26th, and during this day and the following night fourteen 
tons of bombs were dropped by the Independent squadrons 
on the railways at Mezieres, Thionville, Ars, Audun-le- 
Roman, and Metz-Sablon, and also on Frescaty aerodrome. 
The day bombers had hard fighting over Metz and six 
of them failed to return. No bombing was possible during 
the remaining nights of the month because of adverse 

A fighting squadron — No. 45 — equipped with Sopwith 
'Camels', joined the Independent Force from Italy on the 
22nd of September, but Major-General Trenchard decided 
not to send the squadron on escort duties until it should 
be re-equipped with special Sopwith 'Snipes' having an 
endurance of four and a half hours. The squadron had not 
been so re-equipped when hostilities ceased, and in the 
meanwhile its activities had been confined to patrols in 
the front-line area. 

In October fog, mist, and low clouds often made raid- 
ing impossible. No new squadrons joined the Independent 
Force during the month, but there was some reorganization 


as a result of the arrival of two wing head-quarters. 
The head-quarters of the Eighty-fifth Wing arrived on 
the 5th of October, and of the Eighty-eighth Wing on 
the 19th. The latter Wing took over Nos. 45 and no 

There was a notable raid on Kaiserslautern during the 
month. On the night of the 2ist/22nd orders were issued 
for four Handley Pages, each carrying one 1,650-lb. bomb, 
to attack this objective, and for four others to drop a full 
load of small incendiary bombs. Three of the Handley 
Pages carrying the heavy bombs, and two with the in- 
cendiary bombs, reached and attacked Kaiserslautern. 
One of the heavy bombs fell in the court-yard of a small 
arms factory, a building of three stories, 100 metres 
square, which was almost entirely demolished. In the 
cellars under the building about forty people from the 
neighbourhood were sheltering: except a child, killed 
outright, they were all eventually rescued unhurt. The 
factory, American-owned, had made sewing-machine parts 
before the war, but during the war it had been compul- 
sorily placed under German control and had been reorgan- 
ized to manufacture cartridge clips. In addition to the 
factory, where the damage was estimated at 500,000 marks, 
houses over a wide area were affected. The other bombs on 
Kaiserslautern on this night mostly fell on waste ground, 
but the blasting effect of the heavy bombs caused severe 
damage to houses. Another 1,650-lb. bomb was dropped 
on Kaiserslautern on the night of the 23rd/24th, and 
other objectives attacked on the same night were Coblenz, 
Mannheim, and Wiesbaden. 

The last-named town was bombed by a Handley Page 
of No. 97 Squadron which had set out to attack Coblenz,^ 
but the visibility was bad and the 1,650-lb. bomb was 
dropped on an unidentified but fairly well lighted town 
lower down the Rhine which, as it proved, was Wiesbaden. 
The bomb caused so much destruction that the inhabi- 

^ The operation orders gave the Badische works at Mannheim and the 
Krupp works at Essen as objectives on this night. The pilot's report shows 
Coblenz as his objective, presumably given to him in person. The alterna- 
tive targets, as quoted officially, were Kaiserslautern or Saarbriicken. 


tants were convinced that a group of bombs, chained 
together, had been dropped. The Wiesbaden fire brigade 
was compelled to call in military assistance, and the rescue 
work continued for three days. Twelve bodies were 
recovered from the debris of the houses and, in addition, 
thirty-six people were treated for severe injuries. This 
attack on a town mainly concerned with the care of the 
sick and wounded aroused strong feeling throughout 
Germany, which, as was not always the case, was told the 
full and gruesome details. It has already been said that 
Wiesbaden was not an allotted objective and that it was 
by chance, and regrettably, that the town was bombed. 

On the 31st of October the railway station at Bonn was 
attacked by six pilots of No. 55 Squadron, led by Captain 
D. R. G. Mackay: the bombs burst in the centre of the 
town, with the result that twenty-nine people were killed 
and about sixty wounded. The inhabitants had received 
no warning until just before the attack had begun and they 
had seemed at a loss to know what to do or where to go : 
many of the casualties were caused among people who were 
jostling to get into a tram. After the attack posters were 
displayed about the town urging the people of Bonn to 
seek cover immediately an air-raid warning was given, and 
to stay under cover for the duration of an alarm. 

The Independent Force squadrons once again co- 
operated in October, at the request of Marshal Foch, with 
the French and American armies in their offensive between 
Rheims and Verdun. Forty tons of bombs were dropped 
on the railways at Metz-Sablon and twenty tons were dis- 
tributed over the railway centres at Mezieres and Thion- 
ville, and the aerodrome at Frescaty. In an attack on the 
Sablon station on the morning of the 5 th of October, made 
by twelve pilots of No. 104 Squadron, a bomb destroyed 
a cellar which had been converted to serve as an air-raid 
shelter and was, at the time of the raid, occupied by 
about one hundred railway workers : twelve of them were 
killed and twenty-three were injured. On the night of the 
9th/ioth of October, when Metz was bombed by Nos.- 97, 
215, and 216 Squadrons, one or more bombs fell on the 
powder magazine on the Metz Weise island. The ensuing 



explosion shook the town, and the powder magazine was 
still smouldering four days later : a German estimate put 
the monetary value of the damage caused at one million 
marks. ^ 

In the final days of the war, before the declaration of 
the Armistice on the nth of November, unfavourable 
weather prevented long-distance raids. The railways at 
Ehrang were attacked by No. 55 Squadron on the loth of 
November, under conditions of haze and heavy clouds. 
The main targets in November were German aerodromes, 
notably that at Morhange, on which a total weight of eight 
tons of bombs was dropped. 

General Observations 

The reader has been given a brief account of some of the 
more important raids on German industrial and other 
centres, and he also has, for reference, a full list of British 
attacks set out in Appendix XIII. It will help further to 
elucidate the efficacy of the attacks if the information 
already given is supplemented by some observations of 
a more general character. German official figures show 
that the total attacks, British and French, on German 
territory, were as follows : 


By day. 

By night. 

Estimated number 
of bombs. 














The total German casualties, civiHan and military, were 
746 killed and 1,843 injured, and the damage was esti- 
mated at 24 million marks, say, ^1,200,000. These were 
the direct destructive effects of the bombing attacks, but 

^ The casualties, military and civil, as a result of aU the air attacks, 
British and French, on Metz throughout the war, were 132 killed and 300 
injured. The barracks south of the railway triangle were many times hit 
and damaged. 

Area of 



Scale 1:1,000,: 


the^ may be set down among the less important results. 
The major effects, in order of importance, may be listed 
as (i) a weakening of the national will, particularly in 191 8 
when the nerves of the people, through hunger and 
general war weariness, were acutely sensitive; (ii) a fall- 
ing off in the production of essential war materials, partly 
because the morale of the workers was lowered by the 
attacks, but chiefly through loss of time as a result of 
air-raid alarms, and (iii) a diversion of fighting squadrons, 
anti-aircraft guns and searchlights, and of a great amount 
of material and labour, to active and passive schemes of 

A German authority has summed up as follows: 'The 
'direct destructive effect of the enemy air raids did not 
'correspond with the resources expended for this purpose. 
'On the other hand, the indirect effect, namely, falling off 
Hn production of war industries^ and also the breaking down 
^ of the moral resistance of the nation^ cannot be too seriously 

It is not perhaps sufficiently realized that air-raid alarms 
were given over the whole area covered by the passage of 
bombing aircraft (and often in adjacent areas also), and 
that it was the time lost in taking shelter as a result of the 
alarms which was mainly responsible for the reduction of 
output. A diary kept by the Roechling iron works at Volk- 
lingen in the Saar district revealed that during the month 
of September 1918, when only one attack was made, the 
operatives were given the air-raid alarm on forty-four 
occasions. Two or three alarms were sometimes given in 
the same night, and the disturbance to sleep and nerves was 
intensified. The Mannesmann works at Bous were bombed 
eight times between September 191 6 and November 191 8, 
and the damage was said to have been very small, estimated 
at a total of about ;£400. In the same period, however, 
the Mannesmann works received 301 air-raid alarms, as a 
result of which 454 working hours were lost, with a con- 
sequent drop in output, estimated by the managers at 
9,440 tons. At the Volklingen works, in the same years, 
there were 327 alarms and a loss of output of 30,680 tons 
^ Major Grosskreutz in Die Luftwacht, October, 1928. 


of steel. ^ The full results of the air attacks and alarms were 
analysed by the directing staff of the Volklingen works 
during the war, and the table, which is reprinted as 
Appendix XIV, may be read as typical of what happened 
in other industrial concerns subjected to similar attacks 
and warnings. 

There is evidence to show that the effect of the air raids 
on the morale of the workers was uneven. Where attacks 
were not only infrequent, but also comparatively harmless, 
air-raid alarms did not cause undue worry. In such places 
the workers sought the shelter of dug-outs, or other protec- 
tion, and they stayed until the 'all-clear' signal was given, 
but although their enforced herding might be looked upon 
as inconvenient or annoying, there was seldom a feel- 
ing of tension. There were occasions when impromptu 
dances were held in shelters for the duration of an alarm. 
Where, however, severe damage had once been inflicted, 
and the attack in general had been of a terrifying nature, 
subsequent alarms worked upon raw nerves and there 
was no inclination to dance. At the Volklingen, Burbach, 
and Hagendingen steel works, all of which suffered severe 
damage at times, the frequency of air-raid warnings during 
the summer and autumn of 191 8 so affected the weary and 
undernourished operatives that their efficiency diminished 
sharply. There were German authorities who believed 
that a stage had been reached in the autumn of 191 8 when 
intensification of the bombing attacks must have caused 
a break-down of labour in those steel works which had 
suffered most. 

The Badische works at Mannheim, and the sister works at 
Oppau, which employed about 14,000 hands, were bombed 
on fifteen occasions during the war, thirteen times by the 
British and twice by the French, and were given the alarm 
256 times. The damage was estimated at a total of about 

^ The most devastating attack on the Volklingen works was one made 
by French aeroplanes in March 191 7, when a bomb hit the benzol instal- 
lation and the resultant damage exceeded one million marks. To deceive 
the bombing pilots dummy buildings were erected on slag-heaps near the 
works at Volklingen, as they were at some other places, notably at Bous. It 
is of interest that the workers expected, and received, increases in wages 
because of the strain of the air-raid alarms. 


520,000 marks and was therefore of no outstanding im- 
portance, but the effect of the raids and of the alarms on 
the morale of the workers, especially in 191 8, was appreci- 
able. The number of bombs which fell in or close to the 
works was 230, but the buildings, like many similar ones 
in industrial Germany, were of massive construction, some 
having outer walls three feet in thickness. The bombing 
crews did their part. They navigated their aeroplanes to 
the allotted targets, but the bombs dropped, mostly of the 
Il2-lb. type, were not heavy enough to cause the desired 
destruction. A few bombs of 1,650-lb. weight were being 
carried by the Handley Pages to enemy objectives towards 
the end of the war and it may be assumed that not many 
hits from bombs of this type would have been required to 
put the Mannheim chemical works out of action. 

Officials of the Badische works who were interviewed by 
an officer of the Independent Force soon after the armistice, 
used the word 'annoying' when speaking in general terms 
of the British bombing attacks. The daylight alarms, they 
said, caused limited inconvenience, but the night alarms 
affected morale as well as output. It was notable in 191 8, 
after an epidemic of influenza had lowered the physical 
resistance of many of the workers, that the moral effect of 
the air-raid alarms was greatly increased. The attack on 
the night of the 25th/26th of August 191 8, when the two 
Handley Pages of No. 215 Squadron bombed the works 
from a low height, made a deep impression. It was true 
that many of the bombs dropped by the two aeroplanes 
failed to detonate,^ and that those which hit and exploded 
were of the 1 12-lb. or smaller kind and did not cause great 
damage, but the daring of the bombers, who seemed to fly 
nonchalantly round the chimney-tops and to make un- 
hurried use of their machine-guns, depressed the spirits of 
the workers. The balloon, searchlight, and anti-aircraft 
gun barrages, which had been placed round the factories, 
had been looked upon as affording a fair measure of pro- 
tection, certainly against low-flying attacks, but the raid 
revealed to the workers that their feeling of moderate 

^ That a number of bombs (sometimes 25 per cent, or more) failed 
to explode was a common feature of the attacks. 


security was falsely based, and seemed also to register the 
indifference, even the contempt, of the British bombers for 
the defence arrangements. Had the two Handley Pages 
each carried on this night a 1,650-lb. bomb, fitted with 
delay-action fuses, the German war chemical industry 
might have suffered a major disaster. The point is hypo- 
thetical, but it is worth making by way of comment on 
the statement that the air attacks on the Mannheim works 
were no more than 'annoying'. 

There were two occasions when the German balloon bar- 
rage was responsible for bringing an aeroplane to ground, 
once, in 191 6, when a French aeroplane crashed after 
fouling a balloon, and again in January 191 8, when a 
British F.E.zb, of No. 100 Squadron (pilot. Second Lieu- 
tenant L. G. Taylor; observer. Second Lieutenant F. E. 
Le Fevre), on the way back from Treves, ran into trouble.^ 
The pilot, who, with his observer, was taken prisoner, 
reported after the war as follows : 'Ahead of us I saw the 
town of Esch in Luxembourg, and hearing a shout from 
my observer, I followed his pointing arm and saw that the 
town was defended by a balloon barrage, which is a steel 
net held up by balloons at intervals of about fifty yards. 
The balloons were at a height of about 4,000 feet, and it 
was impossible to get over them in our crippled condition, 
so I kept straight on, hoping to pass through the barrage 
without hitting a wire. My observer immediately opened 
fire on the balloon above in the vain hope of setting it on 
fire and dropping the net, but nothing happened. We 
were now passing under the balloon and for a moment I 
had the feeling that we must have missed the wires, but 
suddenly the machine gave a violent lurch, and was thrown 
backwards: I immediately put the nose down, but the 
speed indicator dial only registered 30 m.p.h. I wondered 
why the machine did not stall and plunge to the ground. 
The aileron controls went out of order immediately we 
struck the net. We went down to the ground, dragging 

^ Kite and balloon barrages were also employed at night in the defence 
schemes of Bruges docks, Zeebrugge, and possibly other targets. It is 
believed that a Handley Page was destroyed in May 191 8 as a result of 
fouling the wires at Bruges. 


^the balloon and net. We finally got close to the ground, 
'which was heavily wooded. The planes and nacelle were 
'riddled with shrapnel holes, and one of the tail booms was 
'nearly cut in two near the main planes. The nose was 
'driven into the ground and one wing was crumpled up 
'underneath the engine. The other wing was sticking 
'straight up into the air, and I saw the balloon wire which 
'had been our final undoing. It had just missed the nacelle 
'by about two feet, and had entered both top and bottom 
'planes just in front of the bomb rack. It had sawed its 
'way anglewise towards the propeller from this point, and 
'had cut the aileron balance wires through, passed through 
'the steel bomb rack and was finally held up by the Michelin 
'flare rack which was of fairly heavy steel, but it had com- 
'pletely worked its way through about three-quarters of 
'the distance from leading to trailing edges of both top and 
'bottom planes, and the first long front landing and flying 
'wires were hanging as they had been sawn through.' 

The results of the bombing operations against railway 
stations and rail communications generally may be summed 
up as, on the whole, disappointing. Some striking instances 
of destruction have been given, of added importance 
because Germany was short of rolling stock, and there was, 
also, much dislocation of traffic. The damage and inter- 
ruption, however, were less than might have been because 
of the German quality of thoroughness. The railway 
buildings were of solid construction, the tracks were well 
laid with brick foundations at important junctions, and 
many of the store sheds had concrete roofs which often 
proved thick enough to detonate the smaller bombs. In 
the main stations machine-guns were placed on bridges, 
in signal boxes, on the roofs of offices, and at other 
vantage points, and substantial dug-outs and shelters were 
built. To mitigate the effect of a possible break-down at 
important points alternative lines were built, and com- 
prehensive schemes were worked out for emergency diver- 
sions of traffic. The schemes came under frequent review 
and there seems little doubt that the system was made as 
flexible as was possible in the circumstances. Tribute must 
be paid to the German railway staff who played their part 


in a grim struggle. The aim of the bombers was to dis- 
locate the traffic system, especially in battle periods when 
movements were above the normal. The railway officials 
had to be alert, by swift decision, to counter, so far as lay 
in their power, every attempt at interruption. It is certain 
that the frequent air-raid alarms caused much dislocation, 
although such evidence as exists does not suggest that 
the disturbances were ever serious or prolonged enough 
to exert a vital influence on the progress of military 

Aerodrome Bombing 

Of the 543 tons of bombs dropped by the squadrons of 
the Independent Force, 220 tons were aimed at German 
aerodromes. One modern view is that such attacks repre- 
sent a diversion of force justified only if adequate results 
can be expected, and when it is not practicable to direct 
the air bombing offensive against more vital centres of the 
enemy. Some of those who hold this view have said that 
the bombing of German aerodromes by the independent 
squadrons went far beyond what was necessary. A majority 
of the bombs aimed at aerodromes should, they contend, 
have had industrial works for objective. 

The reader will be given such available facts as have a 
bearing on the subject and he must form his own judge- 
ment. No more than one fighter squadron was allotted to 
the Independent Force, but because it had not been suit- 
ably equipped before the end of the war it never came into 
effective action. Aerodrome bombing, therefore, was the 
only means by which the Force could wage an air offensive 
against the enemy squadrons on its front. It must be 
remembered that the night-flying F.E.2b's did not have 
the endurance to reach the Rhineland industrial area, and 
that the German aerodromes were suitable targets, among 
others, within their range. Furthermore, enemy aero- 
dromes also formed useful alternative targets for the longer 
range bombers on occasions when the weather conditions 
were unfavourable for distant operations. 

Aerodrome bombing by the Independent Force had 
two objects: 


(i) to inflict damage on the German night-bombing 
squadrons and generally to subdue them in order to 
make them unable, or unwilling, to attack the aero- 
dromes of the Independent Force, and 
(ii) similarly to damage and subdue the German fighter 
squadrons so as to make the way of the British day 
bombers easier. 
The aerodromes most frequently attacked were situated 
at Boulay, Buhl, Morhange, and Frescaty, but about 
twenty others were also bombed, some of them once only. 
Unfortunately, not many German official records have 
been preserved which contain information about the results 
of the bombing, and those which have survived give only 
summary particulars. At Boulay, for example, a report 
for the week ending the 20th of August 191 8 shows that 
bombing attacks during the week destroyed five aeroplanes 
and damaged ten. In the following week, when a dummy 
aerodrome set up nearby diverted many bombs, the losses 
on the real aerodrome were two aeroplanes destroyed and 
five damaged. On the night of the 3rd/4th of September 
two large hangars on the aerodrome received direct hits 
during an attack, and both were wrecked, one of them by 
fire, but the German records appear to indicate that on 
this night the hangars were empty of aeroplanes. 

It is known that an attack on the aerodrome at Mor- 
hange on the night of the 1 6th/ 17th of August had im- 
portant results. Three hangars, one large and two small, 
were hit and destroyed by fire with their contents. In 
each of the smaller hangars two fighter type aeroplanes 
were housed, but although it was believed at the time that 
the large hangar also contained aeroplanes, there is some 
evidence that it housed transport. A third small hangar 
in the same attack was riddled with bomb splinters and its 
two aeroplanes rendered unserviceable, while a bomb struck 
the corner of yet another hangar and destroyed one aero- 
plane. On the night of the 21st /22nd of August, when 
Morhange was once more attacked, four of seven aero- 
planes which were hit by splinters were rendered useless. 

On the 22nd/23rd of August there was a notable attack 
on Volpersweiler, the aerodrome of the German 19th Army 


Aircraft Park. A fire was caused which lighted the night 
for miles around, and it can now be stated that one of the 
bombs set fire to a large petrol dump. Another hit a rail- 
way-siding platform on which munitions, presumably aero- 
plane bombs, were stacked: they exploded and helped to 
spread destruction. There were also direct hits by bombs on 
aerodrome buildings which contained about one hundred 
aeroplanes, and it may be assumed that the number of 
aeroplanes destroyed and damaged was formidable. A 
brief entry in a German official document reads: 'The 
'enemy caused considerable damage by concentrated 
'attacks on the aerodromes of Morhange and Volper- 

There is little that can be said with certainty about the 
results of the attacks on the aerodrome at Frescaty. It is 
known that in a raid on the night of the 26th/27th of 
February 191 8 the largest hangar on the aerodrome, a 
building about 1 00 yards long and 20 yards wide, was set 
on fire and destroyed with all its aeroplanes, the number 
of which cannot be stated. 

Such are the available particulars, and, although they 
are admittedly meagre, they indicate that the total material 
damage inflicted was important. What is also certain is 
that on those aerodromes which were frequently attacked 
the morale of the personnel was affected. The Germans 
took such steps as they could to mitigate the results of the 
bombing. Dummy aerodromes were established in some 
places, aeroplanes were dispersed as deemed necessary to 
temporary landing-grounds, and personnel were given 
quarters in villages away from the aerodromes. On the 
main aerodromes dug-outs were constructed as air-raid 
shelters and special protection was provided for important 
stores such as bombs and petrol. 

Although the information from the German side is too 
scanty for judgement to be formed upon this important 
subject, we are not wholly dependent upon the German 
records. The results of the organized bombing attacks 
on British aerodromes in France can be tabulated, and 
they throw further light on the question. The main enemy 
attacks were as follows : 






No. of 

{a) Destroyed. 




(b) Damaged. 



July 6/7 

Bray Dunes 


{a) Nil 


Oct. 1/2 

St. Pol (depot) 



(^) Nil. 

Great damage to 
sheds, &c. 7 
aeroplanes also 
destroyed on 
French aero- 


June 5/6 



W 5 

5 hangars de- 




» ^l7 



(^) I 

4 hangars de- 


W 9 

stroyed, 6 dam- 


aged: aeroplanes 
were out when 
attack took place. 

Aug. 24/5 



(^) 3 

Transport and 

Sept. 23/4 



(a) 26 

48 killed and 124 



injured; trans- 
port, engines, 
and buildings 

6 raids 


W 134 

The table, so far as it goes, is striking. It will be observed 
that, apart from other results, sometimes considerable, 
two British aeroplanes were destroyed or damaged for each 
German bombing aeroplane engaged. The total enemy 
losses were six aeroplanes, which were wrecked through 
forced landings before reaching their aerodromes on the 
homeward journeys : in only one instance were the crew in- 
jured. In other words, the table would appear to show, at 
a superficial glance, that with negligible risk and reason- 
able luck, an air force might quickly disable an opposing 
air force by means of a sustained bombing offensive waged 
against its aerodromes. The matter, however, is not quite 




so simple. It must be borne in mind that although the 
table takes note of the chief concentrated attacks by regular 
German bombing squadrons on British Western front 
aerodromes, it can still be said that the figures are selective. 
For a comprehensive picture it v^ould be necessary to take 
into account all the spasmodic bombing of aerodromes on 
the Western front, and if this were done the results w^ould 
be shovv^n to be far less favourable to the bombing aircraft. 
It v^ill be noted that of the total damage most was inflicted 
at the two aircraft depots at St. Pol and at Marquise. All 
that need be said by way of comment is that if ever again 
similar targets should be offered to a nearby enemy (Gothas 
could reload with bombs and return to their targets three 
or four times during one night) they would be crying to 
the skies for early destruction: nor would they cry in 

There was an occasion when the French suffered even 
more heavily than the British air service. In September 
191 7, during a period of air concentration behind Verdun, 
a series of attacks during two successive nights resulted in 
the destruction of eighty-five French aeroplanes, and in 
damage to many more. 

The truth is that whether or not aerodrome bombing is 
worth while is a matter of common sense, not of hard and 
fast rules. The answer will depend upon all the attendant 
circumstances, general, strategical, tactical, and technical. 
An air force will aim at the dispersion and concealment 
of its aircraft, but there may be times, perhaps because 
of a restriction of land suitable for aerodromes, when a 
dangerous degree of concentration may be unavoidable. 
If for this or any other reason a truly vulnerable target 
is offered it will surely not be missed. Although dispersion 
may not be difficult for operating squadrons, it will be 
less easy for the aircraft parks and depots in which the 
reserve aeroplanes and stores must be housed. Towards 
the end of the war the Germans found it essential to build 
massive concrete shelters in the North Darse at Bruges 
to protect submarines from air bombing.^ Had the war 
continued it might have become necessary to provide 
I See Vol. IV, pp. 104-5. 


comparable protection, whether above or below ground, 
for the main aircraft reserves. 

Many of the German aerodromes during the war, like 
many of the British, oifered vulnerable targets, and they 
were therefore suitable objectives for the Independent 
Force squadrons. It may be that too great a proportion of 
the activities of the bombing squadrons was directed against 
aerodrome targets. That is a matter of opinion. Perhaps, 
in the circumstances of 191 8, when the Germans were find- 
ing it difficult to maintain supplies to meet the expanded 
demands for aircraft, it might have sufficed had Major- 
General Trenchard held his hand and ordered intensive 
attacks on the enemy aerodromes only if and when German 
aeroplanes became active in bombing the aerodromes of 
the Independent Force. It was never his way, however, 
to let the enemy dictate his policy, and, in any event, he 
had no other means of subduing the German fighting 
formations in the path of the independent squadrons. 
Furthermore, the fact that the Germans had supply diffi- 
culties in 191 8 made the destruction of aeroplanes and 
technical stores additionally valuable because their replace- 
ment was, at best, delayed and, at worst, impossible. When 
all is said, what remains true is that Major-General Tren- 
chard's object was achieved. The aerodromes of the In- 
dependent Force day and night bombers were not seriously 
molested — of moral as well as of material importance — 
and the German defensive fighters, with some exceptions, 
were unable to prevent the day bombers from attacking 
their distant objectives.^ 

^ Statistics have been compiled relative to the attacks on industrial 
and railway objectives (that is, excluding aerodromes). These show that, 
between October 1917 and November 191 8, 76 per cent, of aeroplanes 
which set out bombed some objective. 14 per cent, did not bomb because 
they had to return owing to engine trouble, and 10 per cent, because of 
unfavourable weather conditions. Of the 76 per cent, which dropped 
bombs, 55*5 per cent, attacked their allotted targets, that is, targets given 
as primary or alternative objectives for the specific raid. 20*5 per cent, 
attacked targets of their own choosing, but more often than not such 
targets were those known to the pilots to be on the approved list of military 
objectives. Of all aeroplanes which set out 3*9 per cent, never returned to 
their aerodromes. 


We may appropriately conclude this summary with an 
instruction of Marshal Foch, made when the composition 
and duties of an Inter-Allied bombing force were under 
discussion. 'The commander of the Inter-Allied Force', 
he said, 'in order to maintain aerial supremacy must by 
'stern fighting oppose any enemy air forces who will 
'attempt to hinder the action of his units, especially his 
'day bombers. To this end he should attack enemy aero- 
'dromes and destroy them — an essential condition to the 
'success of his operations. This destruction of aerodromes 
' — for the same reason — must be undertaken by the 
'Eastern Army Group according to the means at its dis- 
'posal. In order that these raids be conducted methodically, 
'a common plan for the two aviation forces is necessary. 
'This plan will be drawn up by General Trenchard.' 

Independent Force Expansioii Programmes 

The operations of the independent bombing squadrons 
have been reviewed. It will now be revealed that the 
Independent Bombing Force never came into existence. 
At the signing of the armistice Major-General Trenchard 
had under his command nine long-distance bombing 
squadrons, that is to say, just one squadron short of the 
number he had asked for in his expansion programme 
submitted in June 1916, long before an independent force 
was thought about. It should also be pointed out that 
the aeroplanes which bombed by day had been designed 
for reconnaissance, and that the F.E.2b, with which 
No. 100 Squadron had to make do for night bombing for 
so long, had become obsolete on the Western front as a 
fighter-reconnaissance aeroplane in the autumn of 1916. 
In other words, the independent operations were for the 
most part made by makeshift bombers. 

It will be recalled that when the Government decided, 
after the June daylight raid on London in 191 7, to double 
the air services. Sir Douglas Haig had been told by the War 
Ofiice that the additional squadrons to be provided would 
be mainly equipped for bombing.^ It was suggested that 
he should make arrangements for the accommodation and 

^ See p. 2. 


maintenance of forty bombing squadrons on the assump- 
tion that the last of them would have arrived in France 
by the end of August 191 8. These squadrons v^ere to be 
extra to the eighty-six (including the ten long-distance 
bombing squadrons referred to above) already approved 
for service w^ith the armies in the field. The War Office 
had something to say about the type of aeroplane w^ith 
v^hich the bombing squadrons v^ould be equipped. Because 
it w^as immediately available for production on a large 
scale, orders had been given, it v^as said, for the fighter- 
reconnaissance aeroplane, the D.H.4, but with such minor 
modifications as might appear necessary, subject to the 
overriding condition that production was not to be de- 
layed. Sir Douglas Haig was also told that efforts would be 
made, meanwhile, to evolve a type of aeroplane which would 
have a longer radius of action than the D.H.4 in order 
that the area of bombing operations might be extended. 

It is clear that Sir Douglas Haig was thus led to believe, 
in the summer of 191 7, that by the end of August 191 8 
he would have at his disposal fifty squadrons for long- 
distance bombing operations, and he therefore at once 
began the necessary arrangements for the accommodation 
of forty squadrons within the British zone, and for ten 
squadrons within the French zone near Nancy, which was 
nearest to the Rhine industrial areas. ^ In a letter to the 
War Office on the 24th of August 191 7, the Commander- 
in-Chief pointed out that it must be expected that the 
Germans would oppose the raids with their best fighters, 
and it would therefore be necessary, he considered, that 
about twenty-five per cent, of the aeroplanes should fly 
without bombs in order that they might be able to act as 
escort. These escorting aeroplanes should, he suggested, 
be armed with at least four guns, two firing forwards and 
two to the rear. 

The number of D.H.4's, with such minor modifications 
as appeared necessary, specially ordered in June 191 7 for 

* For suppty,&c., purposes it was deemed advisable that the squadrons 
should be within the British zone, but owing to the restricted range of the 
bombing aircraft it was necessary that they should begin operations from 
the French zone. 


the bombing programme was seven hundred. At a meeting 
of the Air Board on the 23rd of July the controller of 
technical design produced plans involving modifications 
to the D.H.4 on such a scale that w^hat resulted could be 
looked upon as a new type, which had been given the 
identity D.H.9. Whereas the D.H.4 lost seventeen miles 
an hour when flying fully loaded at 10,000 feet, the new 
type would retain its speed (112 miles per hour) at this 
height and would, in addition, give a rather longer radius 
of action. The Air Board did not at once decide to vary 
the order for seven hundred D.H.4's, but at their next 
meeting, three days later, when the subject was again dis- 
cussed and an assurance was given that a change in the 
design would mean no more than an initial delay in pro- 
duction of from three to four weeks, the Board adopted the 
D.H.9 in place of the D.H.4. 

It will be observed that the members of the Air Board 
were thinking only of day bombing. There had been some 
discussion about night bombing, and the Admiralty repre- 
sentative on the Board had made a favourable report about 
the Handley Page, but the military members had pointed 
out that the Royal Flying Corps had no use for the 
Handley Page because the army preferred extra speed to 
extra weight-carrying capacity, and the military view 
was that night bombing was unsatisfactory because it was 
less accurate than day bombing. At their meeting on the 
23rd of July the members of the Board had made a decision 
which, in effect, registered their disbelief in the value of 
night bombing: they decided that all orders for experi- 
mental heavy bombing aeroplanes should be postponed. 

The decision was not long allowed to stand. The con- 
troller of the technical department expressed his dis- 
approval in forcible language and then, at a meeting of the 
Board on the 30th of July, Sir William Weir reopened the 
question. In the result the Air Board decided to give 
orders for 100 Handley Pages for night bombing, and to 
place orders, also, with the Handley Page and with the 
Vickers companies, for three experimental heavy bombers.^ 

^ From this order resulted the super Handley Page (type V.1500) and 
the Vickers Vimy bomber. It is of interest that at the meeting Lord 


In spite of this decision, however, some members of the 
Board continued to be uneasy. At a meeting on the 3rd 
of August Major-General Henderson told the members 
that Major-General Trenchard did not recommend the 
construction of a large number of twin-engined bombers 
because of their vulnerability in the air. He preferred the 
D.H.4 for day raiding, the moral effect of which was con- 
sidered to be greater than that of night raiding. No action 
was taken at the meeting, but the Admiralty representa- 
tive, Captain V. Vyvyan, R.N., mindful that the navy had 
had experience with day and night bombers, that is, with 
the D.H,4 and with the Handley Page, whereas the army 
had knowledge only of the D.H.4, thought it would be 
useful if he obtained reports from the naval air commander 
at Dunkirk. 

At a meeting on the loth of August he told the 
members of the Board that he had received reports from 
Dunkirk which showed that the night-flying Handley Page 
suffered fewer casualties than the D.H.4, ^^^ ^^^^ showed 
that, in the opinion of the naval air commander, night 
bombing was more accurate than day bombing. These 
views, which differed from those held at the time by the 
Royal Flying Corps, occasioned some surprise, and the 
Board decided that the Dunkirk reports should be im- 
mediately circulated among the members. The reports 
made the following points : 

(i) There are more clear and calm nights than days 

during the year, therefore night operations can be 

more regular, 
(ii) Owing to the inaccuracy of anti-aircraft fire at 

night a high performance is not required, and about 

four times the weight per horse-power of bombs 

can be carried in a night bomber as can be carried 

by day. 
(iii) The aeroplane can descend lower over a target at 

night, which makes for increased accuracy, 
(iv) When attacks are made on aerodromes enemy 

Cowdray, the President, gave as an additional reason for providing heavy 
bombers the possibility that German aircraft might become so negligible 
that slow bombers would be able to fly by day with a small escort. 


fighting aeroplanes will be in their sheds at night, 
whereas in the day empty sheds may be bombed, 
(v) A night-bombing aeroplane can operate night after 
night, but as day bombers are nearly always hit 
over well-protected areas by A.A. and machine- 
gun fire, it is found that only about one-half of 
them can be kept in commission, 
(vi) No difficulty is found on clear nights, even when 

there is no moon, in locating an objective, 
(vii) Train activity, movements of convoys and move- 
ments of men, nearly always take place at night. 
It was also said that 'one very important item in the 
use of heavy bombing machines operating at night is that 
they can proceed to their various destinations unescorted, 
and the danger from enemy aircraft and anti-aircraft 
guns is exceedingly slight when compared to day-bombing 
machines, which, in this area, are nearly always shot about 
bv one or the other'. 

After the members had had time to consider the reports 
the Board decided to refer the whole matter, for comment, 
to Major-General Trenchard. His reply, dated the 7th of 
September, expressed general agreement with the Dun- 
kirk reports, but laid stress upon the point that success in 
night bombing was chiefly a matter of careful training. 
Three days later, on the loth, Sir Douglas Haig sent a 
letter to the War Office in which he asked that at least 
twenty-five per cent, of any additional bombing squadrons 
provided for France should be equipped as night bombers : 
speed and climbing capabilities could be sacrificed, he said, 
to bomb-carrying capacity. 

Meanwhile the German night-bombing campaign against 
England had begun, by moonlight, on the 2nd of Septem- 
ber, a fact which robbed the discussion about the merits 
or otherwise of night bombing of any meaning. On the 
6th the Air Board had decided to order an additional two 
hundred Handley Pages, and they increased the number 
by another hundred, making four hundred in all, as soon 
as they received Sir Douglas Haig's letter of the loth of 

In November 191 7 Major-General Trenchard in France 

1917] THE D.H.9 169 

received information which made him immediately un- 
easy about the type of aeroplane to be provided for his 
long-distance bombing programme in 191 8. He vi^rote to 
Major-General J. M. Salmond, at that time director- 
general of military aeronautics, on the i6th to say he had 
heard unofficially from Mr. Geoffrey de Havilland that the 
D.H.9 would be inferior in performance to the D.H.4 
equipped with the 275 horse-power Rolls-Royce engine, 
and would be unable to fly in formation at 15,000-16,000 
feet fully loaded with bombs. 'I do not know', said Major- 
General Trenchard, 'who is responsible for deciding upon 
'the D.H.9, ^^^ ^ should have thought that no-one would 
'imagine we should be able to carry out long-distance 
'bombing raids by day next year with machines inferior in 
'performance to those we use for this purpose at present. 
'I consider the situation critical and I think every en- 
'deavour should be made at once to produce a machine 
'with a performance equal at least to the existing D.H.4 
'(275 Rolls-Royce) and to press on with the output with 
'the utmost energy. ... I am strongly of opinion that un- 
'less something is done at once we shall be in a very serious 
'situation next year with regard to this long-distance day 

'bombing ' Major-General Salmond brought the matter 

as one of urgency to the notice of the Air Board, but Sir 
William Weir made it clear that it was a choice of having 
the D.H.9 with the B.H.P. engine, or of having nothing 
at all. Major-General Trenchard attended a meeting of 
the Board on the 28th November and repeated his 

Meanwhile, on the 14th of November 191 7, Sir Douglas 
Haig, voicing the views of Major-General Trenchard, had 
asked that the outstanding orders for D.H.9's should be 
reduced to what was necessary to produce and maintain 
fifteen squadrons because, with increasing opposition to be 
expected from German fighters, the D.H.9 with the B.H.P. 
engine would be outclassed as a day bomber about June 
1918.^ It might be employed as a night bomber after that 
date, and it might also continue to be useful for day bomb- 
ing provided it was fitted with Rolls-Royce or 'Liberty' 
^ See also p. 142. 


engines. In his letter the Commander-in-Chief stated that 
it might become necessary to concentrate on night bomb- 
ing as time went on, and he asked therefore that four of 
the ten Handley Page squadrons allotted should be sent 
out, if possible, before any of the fifteen D.H.9 squadrons. 
There was thus, between July and November 191 7, an 
entire change in the military view about the relative im- 
portance and value of night and day bombing. 

We have considered some of the technical considera- 
tions which affected the bombing programmes. It will be 
of interest now to see how the programmes themselves 
developed and changed. The June 191 7 general expansion 
programme allowed, we have seen, for fifty bombing 
squadrons, of which ten were to be allotted for work with 
the armies. When, in November 191 7, Sir Douglas Haig 
put forward his expansion programme up to the summer of 
1919, he recommended that for long-distance raids against 
targets in Germany provision should be made as follows : 

Type Squadrons 

Day Bombers . . . . .25 

Night Bombers . . . . .20 

Long-distance fighters (2- or 3-seater) . . 20 

Long-distance squadron of aeroplanes carry- 
ing a moderately heavy Q.F. gun . . i 


Sir Douglas Haig's programme was considered by the 
War Office and, after its formation in January 191 8, by 
the Air Council. To avoid delay the Air Council presented 
to the War Cabinet, for approval, what was called the 
'Rothermere' programme, which referred only to military 
air requirements : it increased the total of military service 
squadrons from 200 to 240. It was said that the Air Coun- 
cil would submit a later programme to include all the 
requirements of the unified air service in all theatres of 
war to the end of 191 9. Meanwhile, preliminary sanction 
was urgently needed for the extra forty squadrons asked 
for by the Army Council. It is of interest that figures 

^ The ten squadrons hitherto shown separately for work with the armies 
were incorporated in this figure. 


quoted in the 'Rothermere' programme showed that the 
recommendations would entail 3,428 aeroplanes in con- 
stant commission on the Western front, of which 1,028 
would be long-distance bombing aeroplanes. The pro- 
gramme was considered by the War Cabinet on the 7th 
of March 191 8, and general approval was given for 240 
military air squadrons. At the same time a doubling of 
the naval air squadrons was sanctioned. 

The next step was a submission by the Admiralty and 
War Office of their detailed requirements to the end of 
September 191 9. The Air Ministry embodied these re- 
quirements, with a provisional programme, 
totalling 340 service squadrons, which was forwarded to 
the other two service departments on the 20th of June. 
In this programme the allowance for the Independent 
Force was forty squadrons in France (twenty-five day and 
fifteen night) and twenty in England (Handley Page night 
bombers). There was no mention in the programme of 
fighting squadrons as asked for by Sir Douglas Haig in 
connexion with his long-distance bombing operations. In 
forwarding the provisional programme to the Admiralty 
and to the War Office, the Air Ministry pointed out that 
the allocations did not fully represent the views of the Air 
Council who were strongly of opinion that a greater pro- 
portion of the total available resources should be devoted 
to long-range bombing operations. The provisional pro- 
gramme was amended in minor particulars early in July, 
mainly because of supply considerations, and the total 
became 328 service squadrons, those allocated to the 
Independent Force being reduced from sixty to fifty-four. 
Meanwhile the Air Ministry, while awaiting the reactions 
of the other service departments, was working on a new 
programme which would be more representative of the 
Air Council views. In the new programme, the squadrons 
allotted to the army and to the navy were appreciably 
reduced. The navy lost thirty-three of its 'paper' squadrons 
and the army lost seventeen, all of which were given to the 
Independent Force to make its total 104 squadrons (of 
which twenty were to be fighting squadrons).^ According 
' Sixteen squadrons of single-seaters and four of two-seaters. 


to this programme the percentages were: Army 36 per 
cent.; Navy 25*8 per cent.; Independent Force 32 per 
cent.; and Home Defence 6*2 per cent. 

One member of the Air Council, however, was per- 
sistent in his doubts about the wisdom of depleting the air 
strengths allotted to the other services, and also whether 
it was practicable for the Independent Force to accom- 
modate so many squadrons. Because of his insistence, 
members of the Air Council visited Major-General Tren- 
chard at Independent Force head-quarters in France. 
There they learned that there were grave difficulties in the 
way of obtaining aerodrome accommodation, and that 
Major-General Trenchard did not require any fighting 
squadrons for the time being. It was impossible, he said, 
to define the type of fighting aeroplane which would be 
needed and he would prefer that the fighting squadrons 
should be allotted to the Expeditionary Force on con- 
dition that if and when the need arose the Independent 
Force would have a call on them. 

After the visit to Independent Force head-quarters, the 
general programme was amended to give the Independent 
Force sixty-eight squadrons, and it was then forwarded to 
the Admiralty and to the War Office for comment. This 
was not long in forthcoming, and both departments sub- 
mitted their views to the War Cabinet which, in turn, re- 
ferred the whole matter to its Air Policy Committee. This 
committee met on the 5th of September and cut down 
and readjusted the programme. Lord Weir, the new Air 
Minister, mindful that, by June 1919, aeroplanes for the 
bombing of Germany would also be supplied by France, 
Italy, and America, agreed to reduce the number of 
squadrons allotted to the Independent Force to forty-two 
in France and fourteen in England. The final step in the 
war programmes of air expansion was taken in October 
191 8, when the disintegration of the German armies had 
brought about a new situation. The Air Council decided 
that the time had come when it was desirable to take a 
short view, and that the air expansion programme could 
be reviewed on the basis that every possible squadron 
should be placed in the field within about six months. A 


new programme, therefore, which did not go beyond June 
1919, was submitted to the War Cabinet at the end of 
October. In this, the total of service squadrons was reduced 
from 328 to 275, and the allotment to the Independent 
Force was cut down to forty squadrons in France and to 
eight in England. 

This brief outline of the expansion programmes tells a 
story of changing hopes and of disappointments. A begin- 
ning was made with forty bombing squadrons which were 
to be in the field by August 1918,^ and the peak point was 
reached in the programme which allotted the Independent 
Force 104 squadrons, which were to be on service by Sep- 
tember 191 9. At the end the number had been changed 
to forty once more, to be in the field by June 1919. Against 
this background of chastened ambition must be set the 
fact that when the war ended Major-General Trenchard 
had, on independent service in France, no more than nine 
bombing squadrons and one fighting squadron. 

The independent Bombing Force which was to work 
from England was also under the command, for operations, 
of Major-General Trenchard. This Group, No. 27, began 
to organize early in September 191 8, under Lieutenant- 
Colonel. R. H. Mulock, at Bircham Newton, Norfolk. It 
was to include two wings, the Eighty-sixth and Eighty- 
seventh, and the intention was that the former should 
operate from England and that the latter should, after 
formation, go overseas. The first squadron to be mobilized 
for this Group was No. 1 66. The head-quarters and squadron 
personnel were carefully selected and the pilots and obser- 
vers, many of them from night-flying F.E.2b squadrons in 
France, were given a special course of navigation at the 
school at Andover. 

The aeroplane with which the force was to begin opera- 
tions was sometimes known as the super-Handley Page, 
but officially called the V/1500 type. It had four engines, 
and could carry thirty 250-lb. bombs, and a crew of six. 

^ A War Office letter to Sir Douglas Haig, dated October the 8th 191 7, 
brought the date forward. It was anticipated, said the letter, that all forty 
bombing squadrons would be dispatched by the end of June 1918. 


The components of the first of the super-Handleys were 
made under pledges of secrecy by Harland & Wolff at 
Belfast. The first flight took place in May 191 8, but the 
aeroplane was destroyed in a crash in the following month 
and this caused delay in production. The second aeroplane 
of the type was not ready until the middle of October 
when it was tested and was said to be very comfortable to 
fly. A total of 255 super-Handley Pages were ordered from 
various firms, including the Handley Page company. At 
the signing of the armistice there were three ready, and 
Berlin had been brought within bombing range of England, 
although it is unlikely that anything of real military value 
could have been achieved before the spring of 1919. 

It is of interest that when, towards the close of the war, 
the nationalities which made up the empire of Austria- 
Hungary declared their independence, it was intended to 
bomb Berlin and other German cities from the north of 
Bohemia. Major-General Trenchard organized a small 
reconnaissance party to report on the aerodrome facilities 
at Prague and on the general state of the country, and he 
made arrangements to send forward a train loaded with 
stores and supplies sufficient to maintain six Handley Pages 
for one month. It was arranged that the bombers should 
fly by way of southern Germany as soon as the recon- 
naissance party had reported, and that if all went well 
other squadrons of the Independent Force should follow. 
Marshal Foch proposed that for local protection two 
Czecho-Slovak divisions should be placed at the disposal of 
Major-General Trenchard, who objected, however, that 
the responsibility for the security of the air contingent 
should not rest with him, but with an Allied army com- 
mander : the signing of the armistice put an end to the 


[Maps, facing, and p. 183] 

After the capture of Jerusalem on the 9th of December 
191 7 it was impossible for General Allenby to halt. 
Jerusalem and Jaffa were still within range of Turkish 
artillery, and it was necessary that the Turks should be 
pushed back as soon as possible, on either flank of the 
British front, far enough to ensure the security of these 
two towns. On the night of the 20th of December the 
XXI Corps, on the British left, began to move. The 52nd 
Division, by a fine feat of arms, crossed the Nahr el 'Auja, 
swollen with rains, and established itself on the right bank. 
The successful passage of this river made possible a general 
advance by the XXI Corps. The further forward move- 
ment began at 8.0 a.m. on the 22nd and met with no 
serious resistance, with the result that at small cost the 
Turks were driven to a line about eight miles distant from 
Jaffa, and the town was placed beyond the range of normal 
enemy artillery fire. 

On the British right some days of intense preparation 
on roads and water supply were necessary before an 
advance could be made to free Jerusalem from pressure. 
All was ready by the 24th of December, but a downpour 
of rain on that day and the next delayed the operation, 
and then the situation was suddenly changed when the 
British intelligence service discovered, from decoded wire- 
less messages and other sources, that the Turks were about 
to make an attempt to recover the town: their attack 
began, astride the Nablus road, at 1.30 a.m. on the 27th. 
Not only did it fail, but, because it exhausted the enemy 
troops, it also facilitated the success of the British counter- 
attack which was made in accordance with the original 
plans for the advance. By the night of the 30th of Decem- 
ber the XX Corps had progressed on a twelve-mile front 
to a depth of from two to three miles, and Jerusalem 
together with the line of lateral communications along the 
Jerusalem-Jaifa road had been freed from danger. 


While these operations were in progress the Palestine 
Brigade, Royal Flying Corps, was disposed as follows: 
No. 113 Squadron, working with the XXI Corps on the 
left, was at Deiran, and No. 14 Squadron, with the XX 
Corps on the right, was at Junction Station, which was 
also the head-quarters of the Fifth (Corps) Wing. The 
army wing — the Fortieth — made up of No. 6^] (Australian) 
Squadron and of No. Iii Squadron, was at Julis. The 
2 1st Balloon Company had one section. No. 50, at Sarona 
with the XXI Corps, and the other, No. 49, at Saris with 
the XX Corps. 

The main work of the squadrons subsequent to the fall 
of Jerusalem was reconnaissance, but there was also some 
co-operation with the artillery and desultory bombing 
of enemy camps. On the 22nd of December, when the 
XXI Corps had advanced north of Jaffa, the weather was 
fine and contact patrol observers had reported the main 
British and enemy movements. As soon as it was seen that 
the Turks were retiring, the squadrons of both wings had 
been ordered to bomb the enemy. The main attacks were 
made on infantry and transport in the neighbourhood of 
Qalqilye and Jaljulye where air reconnaissances had re- 
ported some crowding. About three hundred light-weight 
bombs were dropped during the day by thirty-six aero- 
planes, and about 7,000 rounds of ammunition were fired 
on the Turkish troops from low heights: the retreating 
Turks were also shelled from the sea by destroyers and 
monitors. The fire of one of the monitors, the M, jx, 
against Turkish infantry in Tabsor, was observed for by an 
aeroplane of No. 113 Squadron, and two hits among the 
soldiers were signalled. 

On the 23rd of December bad weather set in and there 
was little flying until the 27th. In the afternoon of the 
26th, when the weather began to improve, an air observer 
who made a strategical reconnaissance reported a slight 
increase of Turkish activity in the Jericho area ; but the 
visibility was still poor and nothing was seen which gave 
indication of the impending enemy attack on Jerusalem. 
The Turkish intentions were, however, as has been told, 
known from other sources and the Royal Flying Corps was 

1917-18] THE JORDAN VALLEY 177 

instructed to keep watch for enemy movements from dawn 
on the 27th, and to pay attention, in particular, to possible 
reinforcements on the march southwards from Nablus. 
Aided by the return of clear weather, the squadrons flew 
over the battle area on the 27th, but no important move- 
ments of Turkish troops were seen. Next day, however, 
the air observers reported enemy columns in retreat 
along the road from Jerusalem to Eire and along the 
further section from Eire to Nablus, and attacks on the 
columns were made throughout the day, with bombs and 
machine-guns, by a total of seventeen pilots. On the 29th 
the main air work was reconnaissance to report the British 
advance and the further Turkish movements and disposi- 
tions, but 26 bombs were dropped by No. 14 Squadron 
on infantry and on camps north of Eire. Ey the 30th of 
December the XX Corps had taken up its new positions 
north of Eire and the action ended. 

The next immediate task for the Royal Flying Corps 
was photography of the enemy area, more particularly in 
order to correct the numerous inaccuracies in the exist- 
ing maps. This work was done with fine efiiciency by the 
Australian squadron which, during the last fortnight in 
January 191 8, photographed 624 square miles of territory. 

^he Jordan Valley 
[Maps, pp. 175, 234] 
No further northward advance could be undertaken 
until the floods caused by the winter rains subsided, and 
improvements in the road and railway communications 
made it possible for supplies to be accumulated forward. 
Meanwhile, in order to make his right flank safe. General 
AUenby decided to drive the Turks across the river Jordan. 
Such an operation, successfully concluded, would prevent 
enemy raids into the country west of the Dead Sea, and 
would also bring about conditions favourable for a subse- 
quent attack against the Hejaz railway. Early in February 
191 8 the communications had been improved sufficiently 
to make the Jordan attack possible, and it was duly begun 
on the 19th. 

2504.6 T^ 


During the time of preparation, two strategical and two 
tactical air reconnaissances were made on each fine day to 
keep watch on the Turkish camps and defences. The 
squadrons also fulfilled a heavy programme of photographic 
work for the making of maps. German pilots, operating 
from aerodromes at El 'Affule and Jenin, were active, 
particularly throughout January, but the Bristol Fighters 
and S.E.5's of the Royal Flying Corps maintained air 
superiority, and the work of reconnaissance and photo- 
graphy proceeded without appreciable hindrance. The 
aerodrome and railway station at El 'Affule were attacked 
(one hundred and two 20-lb. bombs) on the 3rd of January, 
and the aerodrome at Jenin (ninety-two 20-lb. bombs) next 
day. On the 25th of the month six pilots who had set out 
to attack the camps at Huwara, on the Bire-Nablus road, 
found a long column of troops on the move north of that 
place and dropped many bombs among them. 

On the 1 3thof February the head-quarters and a nucleus 
Flight of a new squadron — No. 142 — ^were taken on the 
strength of the Fortieth (Army) Wing at Julis. The 
Flight was provisionally equipped with B.E.i2a aeroplanes 
allotted from No. i Squadron, Australian Flying Corps. ^ 

The fighting which began on the 19th of February took 
place in a wilderness of deep-cut gorges and barren hills, 
almost devoid of communications. The XX Corps, on the 
opening day, captured Rammun, 'Iraq Ibrahim, El Mun- 
tar, and Ras et Tawil. While the infantry were moving 
forward the observers of No. 14 Squadron reconnoitred 
the whole tactical area and they reported that there were 
no concentrations of Turkish troops. In the afternoon an 
air observer called for artillery fire against a formed party 
of about 300 enemy infantry seen marching along the 
Bire-Nablus road: the guns opened fire without delay, 
and the Turks were scattered after suffering casualties. 
Strategic reconnaissances by the squadrons of the Fortieth 
(Army) Wing kept watch on the country east of the Jordan 
and north of the Wadi el 'Auja. No important Turkish 
movements were reported, but a decrease in the camps at 

^ On the 6th of February No. 6'] (Australian) Squadron, Royal Flying 
Corps, had officially become No. i Squadron, Australian Flying Corps. 

1918] MIMI 179 

Jericho and Rujm el Bahr was noted, and a new pontoon 
bridge near El Ghoraniye was discovered across the 

On the morning of the 20th, when the British advance 
was resumed, it was seen from the air that enemy columns 
were retreating on Jericho in disorder, and that the camps 
at Rujm el Bahr had been abandoned and were burning: 
there were movements also of troops and transport east- 
wards from Jericho towards the Jordan. 

For the next four days flying was impossible owing to a 
gale. The indications in the air reports of the 20th of 
February that the Turks were evacuating the area were 
shown to be correct. On the morning of the 21st British 
cavalry entered Jericho, which they found cleared of 
military stores. Troopers who rode out to Rujm el Bahr, 
on the Dead Sea, discovered that the grain stores had been 
removed. West of the Jordan, between the Dead Sea and 
the Wadi el ^Auja, there appeared to be no Turkish soldiers 
except at the El Ghoraniye bridgehead on the Jericho- 
Es Salt road, and covering the ford across the Jordan at 
Makhadet Hijla. Although there was some cause for dis- 
appointment because the Turks had not been cut off, the 
main object of the operations had been attained and the 
right flank of the British forces in Palestine had been made 
secure. It was the opinion of those who took part in the 
Jericho advance that the country across which the move- 
ments were made was the most difficult which had been 
encountered during the campaign up to that time. The 
tangled nature of the ground increased the value of the 
mapping and reconnaissance work of the air squadrons: 
there were instances during the advance on the 20th when 
cavalry, with whom touch had been lost, were found by 
air observers specially sent to search for them. 

An attempt, of some interest although unsuccessful, 
was made by the Royal Flying Corps to rob the Turks of 
their boat transport on the Dead Sea. At the suggestion 
of Lieutenant-Colonel R. Williams the fuselage and engine 
of a Martinsyde aeroplane were placed on twin floats to 
form a so-called hydroplane (known as Mimi) which was 
taken by lorry to a point near Jericho, and was thereafter 


carried to the shores of the Dead Sea hy men of the 
Egyptian army escorted by a platoon of the 2 /20th Lon- 
don Regiment. The hydroplane was erected during the 
day and night of the 28th of February and, before dawn 
on the 1st of March, a start was made for a group of boats 
on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. Captain J. A. D. 
Dempsey was the pilot and with him were Captain P. D. 
Drury and ist Air Mechanic Doig, Australian Flying 
Corps.The idea was that Captain Drury and Air Mechanic 
Doig should, under cover of fire from two Lewis guns 
fitted in the hydroplane, go overboard, swim to the boats, 
cut them adrift, and then hitch them to the hydroplane 
which would endeavour to tow them to the western shore. 
The plan, however, miscarried. On the outward journey 
the rudder-yoke on the hydroplane broke, and the machine 
drifted southwards out of control and was eventually 
beached. The hydroplane could not be repaired on the 
spot, but Captain Dempsey thought he saw a chance of 
making the attempt in a different way. He took the floats 
off the machine and converted them into boats, each to 
carry four men. With the help of paddles made from 
petrol boxes and other wood the two crews set out on 
the evening of the 2nd of March, but once more luck was 
not with them. A strong current carried the boats away 
from their objective, and after paddling hard for more than 
seven hours the crews fetched up on the eastern shore of 
the Dead Sea, five miles south of where the Turkish boats 
were lying. While the men were taking a rest, the Royal 
Flying Corps officers (Captains J. A. D. Dempsey, P. D. 
Drury, and Lieutenant E. Bell), helped by the light of the 
moon, made a local reconnaissance, and at dawn the return 
journey was accomplished. 

Although the advance to Jericho had made the British 
right flank secure, it had not won a frontage wide enough, 
clear of the Dead Sea, for operations to be undertaken east 
of the Jordan. General AUenby planned, therefore, to 
push forward to the line of the Wadi el 'Auja on his right, 
and he hoped that he would later be able to force the 
passage of the Jordan, capture Es Salt, and destroy the 


Hejaz railway at 'Amman. If the operations succeeded he 
would leave a detachment at Es Salt in order to prevent 
repairs to the railway, while he prepared for a general 
advance west of the Jordan, to take place about the middle 
of April. 

While General Allenby was making his plans there was 
a change in the enemy supreme command which was 
destined to lead to a change also in the defensive tactics of 
the Turkish armies. On the ist of March the German 
General der Kavallerie Liman von Sanders, who had com- 
manded the Turkish Fifth Army, succeeded General von 
Falkenhayn. Whereas Falkenhayn was a man of flexible 
temper who had a lively belief in the value of manoeuvre 
for defence as well as for offence, Liman von Sanders had 
more rigid qualities w^hich induced him to pay a strict 
attention to the value of ground. His outlook was em- 
bodied in plans which aimed at keeping a firm grip on the 
front. To do this he was compelled to employ his reserves 
well forward, and the resources at his disposal were such 
that he could not, at the same time, assemble any useful 
reserve of manoeuvre. It will be shown that there was a 
notable stiffening in the quality of the Turkish defence 
from March 191 8 onwards, but when, later in the year, 
General AUenby attacked in strength and ruptured the 
front, the inflexibility of the strategy of Liman von Sanders 
contributed to the disaster which overtook the Turkish 

The movement to secure the line of the Wadi el 'Auja 
started during the night of the 8th of March. Before the 
advance began air reconnaissances had revealed significant 
changes in the Turkish dispositions. On the 5th of March 
a new pontoon bridge had been reported across the Jordan 
at Jisr ed Damiye, and two days later it was noticed that 
the bridge at El Ghoraniye had disappeared. At the same 
time it was seen that the Turkish camps east of the Jordan, 
between Es Salt and Shunet Nimrin, had been very much 
reduced. The changes which were taking place were rapid 
and puzzling, but it was inferred from the air reports that 
the main movement was in a north-westerly direction, 
from Es Salt towards Nablus. It can now be stated that 


this conclusion was well founded. Liman von Sanders, the 
new German commander, had taken energetic action. He 
had issued orders to the Turkish XX Corps^ which had 
.retreated across the Jordan after the British occupation 
of Jericho, to recross the river and take up a position on 
the left of the Turkish /// Corfs which was astride the 
Nablus road : the movement began on the night of the 
4th/sth of March. 

By the nth of March the British XX Corps had gained 
its allotted objectives about the line of the Wadi el 'Auja, 
but the cost had been comparatively high owing to the 
resistance offered by well-placed machine-gunners. On 
the most important day of the action, the 9th, the Royal 
Flying Corps had not been able to give much help on 
account of fog and cloud, but the observers reported move- 
ments from the camps east of the Jordan, and also new 
camps along the Jisr ed Damiye-Nablus road. On the 
same day a camp near Sinjil, on the Bire-Nablus road, 
was attacked by No. i Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, 
and bombs were seen to burst among tents and troops and 
to set fire to a petrol dump: transport and men on the 
Bire-Nablus road were bombed by three pilots of No. 142 
Squadron. On the loth of March, in improved weather, 
the air observers reported the British and Turkish dis- 
positions, and there was some bombing of enemy troops 
and camps along the Bire-Nablus road, but on the nth, 
the final day of the action, mist and rain again prevented 
useful flying. 

In order to bring its right into conformity with the 
advance made by the XX Corps, the XXI Corps attacked 
on the 1 2th of March. The attack succeeded at small cost, 
mainly because of the British preponderance in artillery, 
heavy and light. No. 113 Squadron had worked methodi- 
cally with the artillery from the time when the XXI Corps 
crossed the El 'Auja at the end of December: all the im- 
portant Turkish positions had been registered, with the 
result that the British guns so dominated the battle area 
when the infantry made their attack on the 12th of March 
that a weak force (three Brigades on a front of seven miles) 
sufficed to bring success. 

British Railways— Red. Turkish— Green. 

Ordaanoe Survey, 1937. 

1917-18] THE ARAB CAMPAIGN 183 

There was intermittent activity by the enemy air service, 
and occasional attempts were made by German two-seaters, 
protected by fighters, to register the Turkish artillery. 
During one of the combats to which this led, Captain 
R. M. Drummond of No. 11 1 Squadron, after shooting 
down one of six enemy fighters, was himself forced down 
with engine trouble. With spluttering engine, and under 
persistent attack by the German fighters, Captain Drum- 
mond journeyed home at a low height, being compelled on 
four occasions to taxi along the ground : during one such 
landing in enemy territory he carried away on his under- 
carriage a clothes-line stretched between two tents, the 
occupants of which were breakfasting nearby. 

As a result of the operations which had begun on the 
8th of March, the general line had been advanced along 
a front of about twenty-six miles to a maximum depth of 
seven miles, and a strong defensive position had been won 
which would ensure safety on the flank while the action 
was fought east of the Jordan. 

^he Arab Campaign 

[Map, facing] 
The main reason why General AUenby wished to cross 
the Jordan and destroy the Hejaz railway at 'Amman was 
a desire to help the Arabs. To make the part played by 
the Arabs intelligible, and because aeroplanes assisted the 
forces of the Emir Feisal, it will be necessary to take note 
of the happenings in the desert after the capture of 'Aqaba 
in July 191 7. Major T. E. Lawrence had been told by 
head-quarters in Egypt that he could count upon adequate 
British support for the Arab Northern Army, based on 
'Aqaba, and he had asked for an air detachment to be em- 
ployed for the bombing of stations on the Hejaz railway, 
and particularly Ma 'an, where the Turks had an aero- 
drome. On the 9th of September 191 7 a detachment from 
No. 14 Squadron, under Captain F. W. Stent,^ had been 

^ Captain Stent was succeeded in command of the Flight by Captain 
F. H. Furness-Williams on the 17th of January 1918. On the i6th of May 
the command was taken over by Captain V. D. Siddons who retained it 
to the end of the campaign. 


sent to 'Aqaba from Palestine, but bombing attacks on 
Ma'an station had already begun in August. From an 
advanced landing ground at Quntilla, seventy miles from 
El Arish in the direction of 'Aqaba, 'O Flight of No. 14 
Squadron (four B.E.'s) had attacked Ma'an station and 
camps on the 28th of August, and on the following day had 
twice bombed camps at El Fuweile and at Abu el Lasan. 
Colonel T. E. Lawrence tells what happened, beginning 
with the attack on Ma 'an: 'Two bombs into the barracks 
'killed thirty-five men and wounded fifty. Eight struck 
'the engine-shed, heavily damaging the plant and stock. A 
'bomb in the General's kitchen finished his cook and his 
'breakfast. Four fell on the aerodrome. ... In the follow- 
'ing dawn they were off once more, three of them this time 
'to Abu el Lissan, where the sight of the great camp had 
'made Stent's mouth water. They bombed the horse lines 
'and stampeded the animals, visited the tents and scattered 
'the Turks. As on the day before, they flew low and were 
'much hit, but not fatally. . . .'^ The pilots, who had flown 
their B.E.'s to Quntilla on the 26th, carrying four days' 
supplies, returned to their aerodrome on the Palestine 
front on the 30th. 

When the special detachment arrived at 'Aqaba in 
September for permanent attachment to the Arab forces 
it became known as 'X' Flight, which formed an inde- 
pendent and self-contained unit under the administrative 
orders of air head-quarters in Egypt. For operations the 
Flight worked under Lieutenant-Colonel P. C. Joyce in 
command of the British section of the Arab Northern 
Army. The Flight began with three B.E.i2's, but it 
received, in October, two B.E.2e's and one D.H.2. Work- 
ing from a landing-ground at 'Aqaba the Flight began a 
routine of reconnaissances of the Turkish camps along the 
Hejaz railway, notably those at Ma 'an. The reconnais- 
sances were usually made by pilots of the single-seater 
B.E.i2's who carried twelve or sixteen i6-lb. bombs to 
drop on Ma'an station and similar targets. 

While the aeroplanes were co-operating with the Arabs 
in the Ma 'an area, other Arab forces, pushing forward west 
^ Seven Pillars of Wisdom, p. 342. 


of the railway, had, by the end of 191 7, taken Esh Shobek 
and Et Tafila, the latter place forty-five miles north of 
Ma'an and only some fifteen miles from the south-east 
corner of the Dead Sea. A Turkish detachment sent to 
recover Tafila in January 191 8 had been annihilated, and 
Falkenhayn had then decided to concentrate a force, 
stiffened by German troops, at El Qatrani, on the railway 
between Ma 'an and 'Amman. This force, drawn from the 
'Amman area, drove the Arabs back to Shobek at the 
beginning of March. 

Meanwhile, farther south, the Arab campaign had also 
suffered a check. On the 22nd of January 191 8 the Arabs 
had attacked Mudauwara station with the help of aero- 
planes. Three pilots, working from an advanced landing- 
ground at Abu Suwana, had three times attacked the 
station and gun-positions with bombs of lOO-lb. and 20-lb. 
weight, but the Arabs had been unable to overcome the 
resistance of the Turks. A pilot who flew over the Mudau- 
wara station on the following morning, ready to bomb the 
Turks, discovered that the Arabs were in full retreat. He 
saw a German aeroplane on the ground near the station 
and attacked it with bomb and machine-gun fire, with the 
result that the aeroplane was damaged and had to be dis- 
mantled and sent back to the base for repair. 

The position in the middle of March, as it affected the 
operations about to be made east of the Jordan, may be 
thus summarized. East of the river towards 'Amman the 
Turks had been greatly reduced in strength, first, by the 
withdrawal which had taken place from the Es Salt-Shunet 
Nimrin area towards Nablus, and, secondly, by the south- 
ward diversion of a force to Qatrani to meet the Arab 
threat. If the impending British attack on 'Amman in- 
duced the enemy to recall the Qatrani force the Emir 
Feisal might be enabled to advance and capture Ma'an. 

The ^ Amman Raid 

[Maps, pp. 183, 234] 

The expedition to 'Amman set out on the night of the 

2 1 St of March. Strategic air reconnaissances had, for some 

days, watched the area between the Bire-Nablus road and 


the Hejaz railway, the latter being reconnoitred from 
Qal'at el Mafraq in the north to Qatrani in the south. 
Early in February the beginnings of an aerodrome had been 
discovered at Qatrani, and by the end of the month the 
aerodrome had grown to an appreciable size. Small cavalry 
and infantry camps were also found in the neighbourhood 
of the aerodrome, and similar camps were located at El 
Kerak to the west, all of which were bombed from time to 
time. On the 19th of March, two days before the advance 
was planned to begin, a mixed enemy force of about 1,000 
cavalry and infantry was seen from the air to be moving on 
Qatrani from Kerak, and an increase in the encampments 
at the latter place was noted. One 230-lb. and twenty-two 
20-lb. bombs were dropped on Qatrani station and camps 
by four pilots, and there is some evidence that as a result 
a few trucks were set on fire, but it appears that otherwise 
little damage was caused. Attempts were made to destroy 
the Turkish pontoon bridge across the river Jordan at Jisr 
ed Damiye, which was five times bombed, but although 
some of the bombs were released from 200 feet the nearest 
exploded ten yards from the bridge and no damage was 

To make co-operation with the advancing troops easier an 
aerodrome was established by No. 14 Squadron at Jericho, 
and 'A' Flight of the squadron moved there from Junction 
Station. Visibility throughout the 21st of March was good 
and air reconnaissances reported the Turkish dispositions 
between the Jordan and 'Amman in some detail. No im- 
portant movements were seen until about 3.0 p.m. when 
a large body of Turkish infantry was observed approach- 
ing the Jordan at Ghoraniye, and cavalry were seen moving 
towards Makhadet Hijla. As a result of the air report the 
2/1 8th London Regiment was ordered to Makhadet Hijla 
to reinforce the 2 /19th which had been ordered to make 
the passage at that place. 

Throughout the night of the 21st /22nd the British 
attempt to force the passage of the river, which was swollen 
with rains, proceeded. At Ghoraniye the boats were swept 
away by the swift current, but at Makhadet Hijla the 
attempt was eventually successful, and, by daybreak on the 


22nd, the 2 /19th London Regiment had crossed, although 
the troops found it impossible to make further progress 
through the rain-sodden country before nightfall. Air re- 
connaissances on the 22nd disclosed no unusual enemy 
movements, but told of activity in the camps at Es Salt and 
of an increase in the rolling-stock in 'Amman station. The 
additional rolling-stock indicated an arrival of reinforce- 
ments for which there v^as confirmation in an expansion of 
the camps in the neighbourhood : an aeroplane hangar v^as 
seen in position east of the station. On the morning of the 
23rd the Auckland Mounted Rifles crossed at Makhadet 
Hijla and cleared the left bank of the Jordan to Ghoraniye, 
v^here a foot-bridge had been established by 4.30 p.m. By 
the end of the day there were five bridges across the river, 
at Makhadet Hijla and Ghoraniye, and the 60th Division 
and most of the cavalry had crossed. The British plans had 
allowed for a swift passage of the Jordan both at Ghoraniye 
and Makhadet Hijla, and for an immediate subsequent 
advance to the foot-hills astride the 'Amman road. It was 
not, however, until the morning of the 24th of March that 
a general advance eastwards from the river could be made, 
and the delay prejudiced the success of the operation. 

The advance on the 24th began at 8.30 a.m. in stormy 
weather. Pilots who flew ahead of the 60th Division 
attacked Turkish troops and transport at Shunet Nimrin 
with sixty-seven 20-lb. bombs, a few of which made direct 
hits. The 60th Division captured Shunet Nimrin and 
advanced four miles along the 'Amman road, while the 
mounted troops followed the tracks towards 'Ain es Sir 
and Na'ur. The ist Australian Light Horse Brigade took 
up a position about Umm esh Shert to cover the left flank 
and dispatched a regiment up the track to Es Salt. 

Rain and sleet, which set in about 2.0 a.m. on the 25th, 
made the tracks difficult for infantry and cavalry move- 
ments, and particularly for the camels, and kept the Royal 
Flying Corps on the ground. The i8ist Brigade reached 
a point about one mile short of Es Salt, where it halted at 
4.15 p.m. The 179th Brigade advanced slowly along the 
Wadi Abu Turra track, picqueting the heights as it went, 
but the Brigade was instructed later in the day that this 


was an unnecessary precaution because there was no indica- 
tion in the air reports that opposition was to be expected 
along this route. The Brigade thereupon pushed straight 
ahead and, four miles from Es Salt, met the Australian 
regiment which had moved up from Umm esh Shert. 
Orders were given to take Es Salt that evening and, at 
6.0 p.m., the Australians rode into the town without 
opposition. To the south, the cavalry, through rain, mist, 
mud, and bitter cold, reached Na'ur on the evening of the 
25th and Ain es Sir on the morning of the 26th. 

The sun broke through the clouds on the 26th of March, 
but the men and horses were tired out after their con- 
tinuous day and night marches in the rain, and it was 
judged impossible to advance on 'Amman until the next 
morning. Two raiding expeditions against the railway, 
north and south of Amman, were, however, ordered to 
take place during the night of the 26th/27th. That to the 
south was successful and a section of the line seven miles 
south of 'Amman station was blown up by a party of the 
New Zealand Brigade. The northern detachment, how- 
ever, encountered a superior cavalry force and was driven 
off without fulfilling its mission. Air reconnaissances on 
the 26th were made difficult by intermittent cloud banks, 
but the tactical and strategical areas were surveyed and no 
important enemy movements were revealed. The bridge 
across the Jordan at Jisr ed Damiye was attacked by five 
pilots with four 112-lb. and twelve 20-lb. bombs, but no 
direct hits were made. Next morning pilots who again 
set out to bomb the bridge found that it had been removed, 
and they therefore dropped their bombs on camps in the 

An attack on 'Amman on the morning of the 27th by 
mounted troops alone — the infantry had not yet come up 
— could make little progress, although raiding parties cut 
the railway north and south of the town which was, as a 
result, temporarily isolated. 'Amman and its neighbour- 
hood was kept under observation from the air throughout 
the day and much enemy activity was discovered. Four 
pilots from each of the two corps squadrons (Nos. 14 and 
113) attacked 'Amman with fifty-five 20-lb. bombs. 

I9I8] A SET-BACK 189 

The attack on the town was resumed at i.o p.m. on the 
28th, but, though strengthened by the arrival of two bat- 
taHons of infantry and of mountain artillery, once again 
made little progress. Air observers followed the movements 
of the British troops and examined the Turkish disposi- 
tions, which were shown to be little changed. On the 29th 
enemy movements were revealed which made for uneasi- 
ness. From the air reports it appeared that reinforcements 
had approached 'Amman from the north, having detrained 
near the bridge destroyed by the Australians. It was 
apparent, also, that troops had been brought across the 
Jordan from Jisr ed Damiye to positions north of Es Salt 
where they threatened from the flank the British line of 
communications. In consequence the ist Australian Light 
Horse pushed farther up the ridge in the Jordan valley 
known as Red Hill in order that they might more effec- 
tively cover the Umm es Shert crossing. Another dis- 
quieting feature was the sudden appearance over Shunet 
Nimrin of thirteen German aeroplanes which dropped 
bombs that killed and wounded 175 camels and caused 
36 casualties to troops and to Egyptians of the Camel 
Transport Corps. Special air reconnaissances were ordered 
to ascertain whether the enemy activity presaged a general 
attack. The air observers failed to discover any appre- 
ciable Turkish movements in the Es Salt-Shunet Nimrin 
area, but the possibility that trouble might be brewing 

At 2 a.m. on the 20th of March, in heavy rain, the attack 
on 'Amman was resumed in greater strength, but although 
it was gallantly pressed by the tired troops success could not 
be achieved, chiefly because of a lack of artillery support. 
As soon as it appeared that failure was certain, the action 
was broken off and orders were given for a withdrawal 
across the Jordan. By the 2nd of April the whole force, 
except for a garrison left on the east bank to hold a bridge- 
head, had crossed the river. 

The 'Amman failure, which came at a time when matters 
were going ill in France, was the first set-back which the 
British forces in Palestine had experienced since the second 
battle of Gaza a year before, and it did much to restore the 


confidence of the Turkish troops and to give them faith in 
Liman von Sanders, their new^ commander-in-chief. The 
causes of the failure are obvious enough. The delay in 
crossing the sv^ollen w^aters of the Jordan was serious, but 
v^hat chiefly affected the operation wsls the wet weather 
which hampered progress, exhausted the men, and pre- 
vented artillery from being moved forward. 

A minor feature of the operations was a method by which 
aeroplanes picked up messages from the ground. They 
were taken by a weighted hook at the end of a line from a 
cord stretched between two poles held by two officers about 
25 yards apart. In this way pilots in the air received instruc- 
tions to make special reconnaissances urgently required, or 
to convey important information to other British forma- 
tions. For example, on the morning of the 29th of March, 
Captain H. I. Hanmer (observer. Lieutenant J. B. Carr), 
of No. 14 Squadron, picked up a message from the head- 
quarters of the Australian and New Zealand Mounted 
Division asking that a reconnaissance be made of the roads 
and railways north and south of 'Amman. When the 
aeroplane returned to drop the observer's report, which 
was apparently not retrieved, the pilot picked up another 
message in which the dispositions of the Anzac Division 
were outlined for the information of the 60th Division : 
this message was dropped on the 60th Division advanced 
head-quarters within about twenty minutes. 

A weakness in the British line of communications calls 
for comment. At one time during the advance there was 
only one bridge across the Jordan open for traffic. Owing 
to a rise in the river the approaches to the other bridges 
had been rendered so boggy that they had become im- 
passable, even for camels. The bridge which remained 
open had long causeways at each end, and had the enemy, 
through air bombing, made this bridge unserviceable, a 
position of some gravity would have been created. Happily 
no attempts to destroy the bridge were made. It may be 
argued that the failure of the Royal Flying Corps to shatter 
the bridge used by the enemy at Jisr ed Damiye had demon- 
strated how difficult it was to achieve success, but it must 
be pointed out that the Jisr ed Damiye bridge did not 


possess the same importance as the bridges which formed 
the sole means of communication between the British 
troops operating east of the Jordan and their bases. The 
mere threat that the Hne of communications might be 
ruptured hy air attack would have created a feeling of 
anxiety that must have influenced General AUenby's 

The grave situation in France resulting from the 
German offensive had an immediate effect on the campaign 
in Palestine. After the capture of Jerusalem the British 
Government had asked General AUenby to outline plans 
for the exploitation of his successes, and they had at the 
same time informed him that he would be reinforced by 
the 7th Indian Division from Mesopotamia. He had replied 
that his next step would be an advance to the Wadi el 
*Auja, after which he would operate against the Hejaz rail- 
way on his right, and also push his left forward gradually to 
Tul Karm. At the same time that these minor movements 
were being made preparations for a large-scale offensive 
would be under way. It had appeared to the British 
Government that General Allenby's plans were not bold 
enough. The desire of the Government was that Turkey 
should be eliminated from the war at a blow, and they had 
invited General Allenby to state what forces he considered 
would be necessary for an advance to Aleppo, which would 
result in the cutting of Turkish communications with 
Mesopotamia : as an alternative he was asked to say v/hat 
forces he would require to enable him to occupy the whole 
of Palestine. General Allenby had submitted plans in con- 
formity with the alternative proposals put to him, and 
the Government had thereupon sent Lieutenant-General 
J. C. Smuts to Egypt, early in February 191 8, to confer, 
on behalf of the War Cabinet, with the military and naval 
commanders, including the Chief of Staff of the Meso- 
potamian Expeditionary Force, about the best way of 
co-ordinating all measures in the Middle East with a 
view to knocking Turkey out of the war. Lieutenant- 
General Smuts had summarized his conclusions in a tele- 
gram sent to England on the 15th of February 1918. He 


had stated, in effect, that the force in Mesopotamia 
should stand on the defensive and transfer reinforcements 
to Palestine for a major offensive in that theatre of v^ar. 
It will not be necessary to consider the detailed strategic 
scheme because, although it received the approval of the 
British Government, it had to be shelved almost at once 
as a result of the German threat on the Western front. 
Even before the storm broke the War Office had decided 
to transfer white troops to France from Palestine and to 
replace them hy Indian regiments. General AUenby was 
informed that each Yeomanry Brigade in his force would 
consist, in the future, of one British and two Indian 
regiments, and that nineteen Indian battalions would re- 
place the same number of British in the infantry divisions. 
Subsequently, when the magnitude of the German offen- 
sive on the Somme was fully revealed, still more drastic 
changes in Palestine were ordered. 

The 52nd Division was relieved in the coastal sector by 
the 7th Indian Division and left for France early in April. 
The 74th Division followed at the end of the month, and 
there was a further drain of Yeomanry regiments, infantry 
battalions, machine-gun companies, and siege batteries, 
which necessitated a complete reorganization of the Pales- 
tine force to incorporate replacements from India, and 
precluded any possibility of a major offensive being 
undertaken before the end of the summer. 

In spite of the loss of experienced divisions, General 
AUenby decided, before calling a halt to the operations, to 
attempt the capture of Tul Karm. The attack began on 
the 9th of April, but the Turks were found to be alert and 
well prepared, and when it became clear that success could 
be achieved only at heavy cost the action was broken off, 
with some slight gains on the right flank. The Turkish 
positions before and during the attack were reconnoitred 
by No. 113 Squadron, whose reports contained many 
references to new entrenchments and battery positions, 
and to work on the conditioning of roads along the lines 
of communication. The squadron also followed a daily 
programme of co-operation with the artillery, chiefly to 
observe for counter-battery fire. 

I9I8] 'X' FLIGHT 193 

7 he Hejaz Railway 
[Map, p. 183] 

The centre of activity now shifted to the eastern area 
where, early on the nth of April, the enemy made an 
abortive and costly attack on the Ghoraniye bridge-head. 
On the same day the Arab forces under the Emir Feisal cut 
the railway north and south of Ma 'an station. On the 
13th of April the Arabs captured Jebel Semna, a Turkish 
post south-west of Ma 'an, and on the following day they 
made an entry into the station itself, but as they could make 
no impression on the strong Turkish positions which covered 
the station from the north they withdrew to Semna once 
more. Aeroplanes of 'X' Flight, using an advanced land- 
ing-ground, bombed Ma 'an while the Arabs were attack- 
ing. Pilots who arrived over the station on the 17th, ready 
to drop bombs, were made aware by ground signals that 
the Arabs were in possession: next day, when the Arabs 
had gone back to Semna, Ma 'an was bombed again. 

Meanwhile a mixed force, under the general command 
of Lieutenant-Colonel A. G. C. Dawnay, of the Hejaz 
Operations Staff, was attacking the line south of Ma'an. 
In the afternoon of the 19th of April two Martinsyde 
aeroplanes co-operated in a successful dash made by this 
force against Tell esh Shahin station. As soon as the pilots 
appeared over the area strips were laid out on the ground 
asking them to bomb at once, and as the aeroplanes dived 
to attack. Bedouin, supported by armoured cars, delivered 
their assault and took the station by storm with fifty- four 

As a result of the various operations against the railway, 
long sections of line had been destroyed between Ma'an 
and Mudauwara, and they remained derelict until the end 
of the war. The pilots of 'X' Flight dropped a total of 
two and a quarter tons of bombs and took fifty photo- 
graphs during their special reconnaissances of the line. 

While the Arabs were raiding the Hejaz railway. General 
AUenby, by way of help, made a demonstration in force in 
the Jordan Valley. He wanted the enemy to believe that 
a new advance was about to take place against 'Amman, a 



possibility which would keep reinforcements from being 
sent towards Ma 'an. The action took place on the i8th of 
April, when mounted troops were sent forward to feel 
their way in the direction of Shunet Nimrin, but the Turks 
covering the place opened such a stinging fire that pro- 
gress became impossible and a withdrawal was ordered at 
6.30 p.m.: the main result of the skirmish was that the 
Turks were made alert against any similar attempt. 

Air reconnaissances throughout April had supplied many 
indications that the Turks were working hard to strengthen 
their defences. In the early part of the month it was seen 
that the damage done to the line at 'Amman as a result of 
the raid made at the end of March was being rapidly 
repaired, and it was reported from the air on the loth that 
the line had been restored. Activity in the Jordan Valley 
was also disclosed, none of it considerable, but sufficiently 
widespread to leave no doubt that Liman von Sanders in- 
tended to strengthen his grip on the whole of his eastern 
area. During the week beginning the 12th of April an 
exceptional number of new trenches and breastworks, par- 
ticularly near Shunet Nimrin, were reported by No. 14 
Squadron.^ After the demonstration made east of the 
Jordan on the i8th of April the squadron was ordered to 
keep special watch for movements towards Shunet Nimrin, 
particularly from the neighbourhood of Es Salt. The 
reconnaissance reports revealed that important changes 
of disposition were proceeding: the camps in the area of 
Shunet Nimrin were shown to be expanding, entrench- 
ments were being multiplied, and new positions for guns 
were seen in preparation. 

l^he Es Salt Raid 

[Maps, pp. 175, 234] 

General Allenby decided to make another, and stronger, 

raid east of the Jordan. Harvest time was approaching, 

and a successful advance into Moab, after the wheat and 

barley had been reaped and gathered, would prevent 

^ The detached FHght of No. 14 Squadron returned to Junction 
Station from Jericho on the 4th of April. The Fhght moved out again to 
Jerusalem on the 27th of April. 


valuable supplies from reaching the Turkish troops. The 
Commander-in-Chief, therefore, planned to 'seize the 
'first opportunity to cut oif and destroy the enemy's force 
'at Shunet Nimrin, and, if successful, to hold Es Salt till 
'the Arabs could advance and relieve my troops'.^ He 
would have preferred to make the attack in mid-May, 
v^hen the reorganization consequent upon the transfer to 
France of a part of his force could be expected to be well 
advanced, but envoys from the Beni Sakr tribe, encamped 
at Madeba, reached General AUenby with an offer of co- 
operation, in an attack east of the Jordan, on condition 
that it was made before the 4th of May. After that date 
they would be compelled, they said, to disperse to distant 
camps on account of a lack of supplies. 

The operation was therefore timed to begin on the 30th 
of April. It failed, partly because the Beni Sakr tribe did 
not give their promised help, but chiefly owing to the sur- 
prise intervention of favourably placed Turkish reinforce- 
ments. Liman von Sanders, confident that he must expect 
a repetition of the British attack on 'Amman, had ordered 
the battalions which had defended the town at the end of 
March to take up positions at Shunet Nimrin to cover the 
main road to Es Salt. The air reconnaissance reports had 
given a fairly clear indication of the ensuing movements. 
Not only, as has been told, did they disclose a growth in 
the camps and entrenchments at Shunet Nimrin, but they 
also revealed decreases in the camps in the neighbourhood 
of 'Amman. Liman von Sanders further concentrated, 
during April, a cavalry division and the Caucasus Cavalry 
Brigade, with other miscellaneous units, under the general 
command of Colonel Essad Bey, on the west bank of the 
Jordan near Mafid Jozele, in an area which was recon- 
noitred from the air almost daily before the British advance 
began. Yet this enemy concentration — of great impor- 
tance because of its position on the flank of the advance — 
escaped detection. The wadis and nullahs were of a kind 
to aid concealment, but unusual precautions must be 
looked for to explain why the force was not reported. It 
is of interest, therefore, to read an account of a visit to the 
^ Dispatch, 1 8th of September 1918. 


camps made hy Liman von Sanders. When first I searched 
for Essad Bey's camp in the Jordan Valley on the Roman 
road', he says, 'I had great difficulty in finding it. It was 
extremely cleverly hidden. There w^as visible no collec- 
tion of buildings that looked like a camp. Isolated tents 
or huts made of branches such as are constructed by the 
Bedouin v^ere scattered about in an irregular fashion, and 
not a horse v^as to be seen. On closer inspection it v^as 
discovered that w^here no nullahs could be found for them 
the stables had been sunk belov^ ground-level. Each stable 
was surrounded by a sloping hedge of branches, which 
also afforded protection from the sun. No aviator could 
recognize a cavalry camp or even suspect its existence.'^ 
The Turkish commander must be given credit for the 
painstaking way in which his efforts to hide his force were 
conceived and put into effect. 

Another enemy force which was destined to make an 
important intervention was the Turkish 24th Division, 
encamped at Telfit and Dome, east of the Nablus road. 
During the night of the 28th/29th of April that part of the 
division which was at Telfit moved to Dome. The con- 
centration of the 24th Division at Dome had nothing to 
do with the impending British advance east of the Jordan. 
It was made in conformity with enemy plans for a pro- 
jected attack at Musallabe, but the result was that the 
division was well placed, on the morning of the 30th, for 
rapid movement to the Jordan. As soon as the British 
intentions became apparent Liman von Sanders ordered 
the division to cross the river, either at Mafid Jozele or 
Jisr ed Damiye, and attack. 

The camps at Telfit and Dome had been reported from 
the air. On the 29th, when the concentration of the 24th 
Division at Dome had already been made, the main atten- 
tion of the air observers had been directed to the country 
between the Jordan and the Hejaz railway, but one 
observer had flown over the Telfit-Dome area about 6.45 
a.m. and had reported minor movements with no change 
in the camps at Dome. Exactly when the Telfit part of the 
Turkish division reached Dome cannot be stated, but 

^ Fiinfjahre Tilrkei, p. 272. 

I9I8] 6oTH DIVISION 197 

whether on the march, or in its new camp, it escaped 
detection, and this must be written down as a failure on 
the part of the air service. 

The operation orders issued to the Fortieth Wing by 
Lieutenant-Colonel A. Shekleton for the 30th required 
reconnaissances to be made at noon, and also as late as 
possible in the afternoon, to search as follows : 

(i) for any indication of enemy movement in the area 

between Nablus and the Jordan towards Jisr ed 

Damiye ; 
(ii) for any movement towards Es Salt from north, 

north-east, or from 'Amman, and 
(iii) for any movement of Arabs co-operating in the 

area between Madeba and Ziza. 
For some reason not apparent in the official records the 
reconnaissances were not made at the times ordered and 
they did not follow the exact routes laid down. The move- 
ments of the Turkish 24th Division towards the Jordan 
were not seen. About 11 a.m. it was reported that there 
was a notable increase of activity in the Lower Wadi el 
Far 'a area, and that there were bodies of enemy cavalry 
east of the ford at Jisr ed Damiye. A reconnaissance made 
between 3 p.m. and 5.45 p.m. again noted much cavalry 
and transport in the Lower Wadi el Far'a area, and also 
told of activity on the roads between Es Salt and 'Amman. 
At the latter place it was seen that the encampments in 
and near the town had decreased since the morning, and it 
seemed clear that the Turks had set their faces westwards 
to meet the British advance. No movements of friendly 
Arabs in the neighbourhood of Madeba were observed 
from the air. 

The British advance had begun on the 30th of April. 
Troops of the 60th Division captured the outpost positions 
at Shunet Nimrin, but could make no further progress 
throughout the day against the main defences. The Austra- 
lian Mounted Division made a remarkable dash for Es Salt, 
which was entered at 6.30 p.m. A brigade had been left to 
cover the Jisr ed Damiye track, but Turkish cavalry and 
infantry, who had crossed the Jordan at a place which was 
out of view from the ground, attacked the Australian 


screen, causing the men to fall back, with the result that the 
Jisr ed Damiye route was never endangered and the Turks 
were able to move across the river without fear of inter- 

On the 1st of May things went badly. The 60th Division 
resumed its attack on the main Turkish position in the 
morning, but could make no impression. Meanwhile, on 
the flank, it had become clear at daylight that formidable 
numbers of Turks had passed over the Jordan at Jisr ed 
Damiye. It was not long before they attacked strongly, 
and the British were pressed back, with a loss of nine guns. 
By noon, a line had been taken up to cover the Umm esh 
Shert track, the sole remaining way of escape open to the 
cavalry who had entered Es Salt the previous evening. 

The sky was clouded over in the forenoon of the ist of 
May and the visibility was poor. In the afternoon there 
was some improvement in the weather, and air reconnais- 
sances confirmed that enemy troops were east of the Jordan 
at Jisr ed Damiye in considerable numbers, and disclosed 
also that important movements of Turkish cavalry were 
being made towards 'Amman from the south. Two aero- 
planes of No. I Squadron, A.F.C., which had set out to 
make the dawn strategical reconnaissance on the ist of 
May, failed to return. It was learned later that one of 
them had been damaged by fire from the ground near 
'Amman and forced to land. While the pilot and his 
observer were setting fire to their aeroplane the second 
pilot (Lieutenant F. W. Haig) had landed alongside and 
picked up the two officers, but when he was moving 
over the ground to take off again, one of the undercarriage 
wheels collapsed and the aeroplane pitched forward and 
was rendered unserviceable. It was set on fire, and the four 
officers were eventually made prisoners. 

On the 2nd of May things went a little better on the 
ground, but the air observers flew home with disquieting 
news. They had to tell of Turkish reinforcements arriving 
from various directions. In the morning a large increase in 
the rolling-stock in 'Amman station was noted with a 
troop train steaming into the station from the north, there 
were formed bodies of cavalry and infantry moving along 


the 'Amman- 'Ain es Sir track, and abnormal movements of 
cavalry, guns, and infantry in the Lov^er Wadi el Far 'a in 
the direction of the Jordan, and there v^as much coming 
and going along the Jisr ed Damiye-Es Salt track. In the 
afternoon pack animals and troops v^ere seen moving from 
'Ain es Sir tov^ards Shunet Nimrin, and in the Jordan area 
a barge wsls found making repeated journeys ferrying 
troops across the river at Jisr ed Damiye. 

Fighting began on the 3rd of May before dawn and the 
enemy pressure was everywhere strengthened. In the 
afternoon General AUenby decided that there was nothing 
to be gained and much to be risked by a continuance of 
the operation, and he therefore empowered Lieutenant- 
General Sir H. G. Chauvel to order a withdrawal: this was 
completed by midnight on the 4th. German aeroplanes 
made a brief attack, with machine-guns, on a retreating 
column on the morning of the 4th, but otherwise enemy 
aircraft did not intervene during the retreat. No. 14 
Squadron did good work throughout the 4th when they 
reported the British and Turkish movements, dropping 
their messages at corps and divisional head-quarters, and 
sometimes also on columns of cavalry. Pilots of the 
Fortieth (Army) Wing carried bombs during their offen- 
sive patrols and strategical reconnaissances and dropped 
them on targets offered by the Turks as they followed up 
the British. 

From the air point of view the feature of interest in this 
minor operation was the failure to discover the Turkish 
concentrations on the west bank of the Jordan before the 
action began. Had General Allenby suspected the presence 
of the Turkish 3rd Cavalry Division and the Caucasus 
Cavalry Brigade near Mafid Jozele, and had he known of 
of the concentration of the Turkish 24th Division at Dome, 
or of its subsequent movement to the Jordan, he would 
no doubt have strengthened his dispositions on the flank 
in order to deny the Turks the free use of the Jisr ed 
Damiye and Mafid Jozele crossings. The fact that the 
Beni Sakr Arabs did not fulfil their undertaking to close 
the 'Ain es Sir track and so cut off Turkish reinforcements 
from Shunet Nimrin also contributed something to the 


failure. While the action was being fought the air squadrons 
did all that could be expected of them, in view of the 
difficult nature of some of the country in which move- 
ments took place. The observers gave valuable indication 
of the arrival of enemy reinforcements, and the messages 
dropped from the air kept the British commanders in- 
formed of the main movements of their columns. When 
reconnaissance had been fully provided for, attempts, 
necessarily intermittent, were made to harass the Turks 
with bomb and machine-gun, and on two occasions medical 
supplies, urgently needed, were dropped for the cavalry in 
Es Sah. 

The two raids across the Jordan failed to achieve their 
immediate object, but the raids should not be judged in 
isolation. General Allenby hoped and believed that he 
would have the means, later in the year, to undertake a 
decisive offensive, and he was impressed with the advan- 
tages which might be obtained if he struck in the Plain of 
Sharon. The raids east of the Jordan would, he antici- 
pated, make the enemy command uneasy about the opposite 
flank, especially about the safety of the railway at the im- 
portant focal point of Der'a. In this the 'Amman and Es 
Salt raids succeeded. The Turkish troops in the Jordan 
valley, and eastwards, were greatly strengthened at the ex- 
pense of the coastal and central areas, a diversion of forces 
that affected the progress of the operations which, later 
in the year, ended the Palestine campaign. 

Summer Operations 

Owing to the torrid conditions during the summer 
months, and to reorganization made necessary by the con- 
tinued transfer of troops to France, there were few actions 
of importance in the period between the Es Salt raid across 
the Jordan and the final offensive in September. On the 8th 
of June the 7th Division, in order to improve its front in 
the area of the coast, captured two low hills which had 
formed observation posts for the enemy : No. 113 Squadron 
helped by observing for the fire of the British guns. 

On the 1st of June No. 142 Squadron had been trans- 
ferred from the Fortieth (Army) Wing to the Fifth (Corps) 


Wing. The pilots and observers of the squadron had been 
attached to No. 14 Squadron to gain experience in the 
work of co-operation with the army and^ on the 6th of 
June, No. 142 Squadron became responsible for the enemy 
area in front of the Desert Mounted Corps in the Jordan 
valley, relieving No. 14 Squadron. On the 27th of June 
the contact patrol Flight ('C') of No. 142 Squadron moved 
to Jerusalem from Er Ramie. Turkish prisoners taken 
early in July spoke of an impending attack in the Jordan 
valley, and No. 142 Squadron was asked to keep a special 
watch for enemy movements. The reports of the observers 
indicated considerable minor activity, but did not disclose 
any exceptional concentrations of troops. The minor move- 
ments behind the Turkish lines were at their maximum on 
the 1 2th of July, and it was reported from the air on the 
following day that they had almost ceased. The front was 
quiet on the 13th, but about i a.m. on the 14th sentries in 
the British forward trenches could hear unusual noise in 
the Turkish lines at Abu Tulul, and at 3.30 a.m. German 
and Turkish troops attacked. The attack, boldly made by 
the Germans, who complained that they were ill supported 
by their Allies, failed entirely at a cost of 448 prisoners, 
of whom 377 were German. While the action was being 
fought the Jodhpore Lancers made a charge in the Jordan 
valley and frustrated an attack which was about to be 
made on the Jordan bridge-head. The main fighting had 
already ended when the first reconnaissance aeroplane of 
No. 142 Squadron appeared over the front at 4.50 a.m. 
The observer reported the movements of several small 
bodies of enemy infantry and cavalry, but he saw no con- 
centrations of troops, and subsequent air reconnaissances 
confirmed that no enemy reinforcements were marching 
to the area, and left no doubt that the attack was of a 
local nature. 

The only additional operations before the September 
offensive began which need be mentioned were two British 
raids. On the night of the 27th of July the 53rd Sikhs 
entered the Turkish advanced trenches near the coast at 
El Haram and brought back thirty-three prisoners with 
a loss to them.selves of four men. A mosaic of the Turkish 


positions was compiled for the use of the Sikhs by No. 
113 Squadron and the air observers also made special 
detailed reports, before the action, about the nature of the 
entrenchments. The second raid, on a larger scale, was 
made hy the loth Division on the night of the 12th of 
August against positions on the steep Gharabe ridge, west 
of the Nablus road. The Turkish area was reconnoitred and 
photographed, chiefly by No. 14 Squadron, and a mosaic 
of the enemy entrenchments was made. Furthermore, a 
replica of the enemy defences, as pictured by the informa- 
tion obtained from the air, was built in the training area, 
and the 29th Brigade of the loth Division, which had been 
withdrawn from the line on the loth of July for special 
training, was able to rehearse the details of the attack. The 
result was that the raid was perfectly executed and the 
Turks, taken by surprise, lost 14 machine-guns and 239 

In August 191 8 the Palestine Brigade, Royal Air Force, 
was reinforced. On the 14th No. 144 Squadron came under 
the orders of the Brigade, and by the end of the month it 
had been fully equipped with D.H.9 aeroplanes at Junction 
Station, the aerodrome of No. 14 Squadron. On the 14th, 
also, one Flight of a single-seater fighter squadron, No. 
145, equipped with S.E.5a's, was incorporated in the 
Brigade. The other Flights of the squadron remained with 
the Training Brigade in Egypt until the 14th of September. 
When the September offensive began the Palestine Brigade 
included the three corps squadrons of the Fifth Wing: 
Nos. 14, 113, and 142; and four squadrons of the Fortieth 
(Army) Wing: No. i A.F.C., and Nos. iii, 144, and 145. 
There were also three balloon sections making up the 21st 
Balloon Company (Nos. 49, 50, and 57), and the Aircraft 
Park at Qantara with its advanced stores depot at Er 

Balloon Observation 

The work of observation, particularly for the fire of the 
artillery, had been greatly helped by the balloon sections. 
In January 191 8 there were two sections in Palestine, Nos. 
49 and 50, the former with the XX Corps in the hilly 


country on the right, and the latter with the XXI Corps 
in the coastal area. In the middle of March a new section, 
No. 54, arrived on the front and relieved No. 49 Section, 
which was transferred to the coast to reinforce No. 50 
Section. No. 54 Section had little luck. The country 
which the observers saw from their basket was very broken 
and it was not easy for them to obtain useful informa- 
tion. Furthermore, the balloon was frequently attacked 
by German aeroplanes. On the 8th of May it had reached 
a height of 5,300 feet — a record at that time for a balloon 
in Palestine — and was about to be hauled down when it was 
set on fire by an enemy pilot. The observer. Lieutenant 
W. H. Hargreaves, jumped, but some of the bridles of his 
parachute had been cut by bullets and it failed to open. 
On the following day the balloons of the two sections in 
the western area were likewise destroyed by enemy aero- 
planes, but the observers reached ground safely with their 

Owing to the disappointing results obtained by No. 54 
Section on the hills, the balloon was withdrawn in May 
and the section was disbanded. In July a new section. No. 
57, was added to the strength of the 21st Balloon Company 
and began work in the coastal area early in August. During 
this month the three sections provided observation for 
316 'shoots' with the artillery, a majority of the targets 
being enemy batteries. As an example of the amount of 
work which could be done by one balloon observer it may 
be mentioned that on a day in August Lieutenant L. W. 
Baker helped to register gun-fire on thirty-two enemy 
targets, a feat which kept him in the air for five and a half 
hours. The methodical work of the balloon observers may 
not appear exciting, but it contributed a not unimportant 
share to the final victory. In the neighbourhood of the 
coast in particular the country was well suited to balloon 
observation and the visibility was usually good, especially 
in the mornings and in the evenings when the enemy area 
was given a sharp definition by the slanting rays of the sun. 
The balloon observers had completed their best work on 
the day when the September offensive opened. On the 
first day of the attack they added some useful information 


about Turkish movements and they received, by heho- 
graph, a few important messages from the advancing British 
infantry, but the rate of progress became so rapid that this 
form of observation could no longer be employed and the 
balloons were deflated. 

'X' Flight with the Arabs 
[Map, p. 183] 

Throughout the summer 'X' Flight, still based on 
*Aqaba, continued to give the Arabs a helping hand. On 
the 1 2th of May 191 8 three pilots, making use of an 
advanced landing-ground, had co-operated with a Sheri- 
fian detachment during an attack on Jerdun station. 
The aeroplanes appeared in the early morning at the 
moment when the Arab attack was beginning, and although 
the pilots could drop only a few light-weight bombs on 
the Turkish positions, the timeliness of the bombing made 
it easier for the Arabs to capture their objective, together 
with 140 prisoners. The Arabs stayed long enough to 
destroy the station, which was too distant from their base 
to be permanently held, and then withdrew.^ 

In June 'X' Flight moved from 'Aqaba to El Gueira, 
and it was subsequently kept occupied by photographic 
and general reconnaissances, and by occasional bomb- 
ing attacks, particularly on Ma 'an and Mudauwara 

In July the large Arab camp at Tahonie, about five 
miles west of Ma 'an, was, bombed by enemy aeroplanes. 
'X' Flight had in its possession no more than two fighting 
aeroplanes, Nieuport Scouts, and these were sent to a 
landing-ground at Tahonie from which patrols were 
made from time to time over the enemy aerodrome at 
Ma 'an. On the 9th of August one of the Nieuport pilots 
shot down an enemy aeroplane which crashed near Jerdun 

^ A message conveying the thanks of the Sherif Feisal said: 'The attack- 
'ing infantry were advancing and close to the position. The bombing was 
'most excellent and accurate ; nearly all the bombs fell inside the fortifica- 
'tions and the slight casualties sustained by the Sherifian troops is attributed 
'to the skill of your pilots.' 

The envelopment oP the 


by the 


l9^'?-25^^ September, 

Ordnance Survey 1937. 


station. About this time a Bristol Fighter was received hy 
the Flight and it joined in the patrols made over the 
aerodrome at Ma 'an. Enemy aeroplanes, however, were 
seldom seen, but occasional 'tip-and-run' bombing raids 
continued to be made on Tahonie. 

Meanwhile there had been successful operations at 
Mudauwara. General AUenby had agreed that two com- 
panies of the Camel Brigade should be sent to capture 
the station, a feat which had up to that time seemed 
beyond the strength of the Arabs. The two companies 
had marched out from the Suez Canal on the 24th of 
July and they reached 'Aqaba on the 30th. On the 
7th of August Mudauwara station was reconnoitred and 
bombed from the air and, next morning, the attack was 
made, the officers who took part making use of copies of 
a photographic mosaic specially compiled for them by 
*X' Flight. When the first pilot appeared over the enemy 
positions on the 8th he found that one of the three Turkish 
redoubts, the southern, had already been captured, and an 
agreed signal laid out on the ground informed him that a 
bombing attack on the northern redoubt was desired. 
Soon after he had dropped his bombs three more pilots 
arrived and they also attacked the redoubt, which was 
quickly captured. The camel force subsequently pushed 
forward from Mudauwara to blow up the main bridge at 
'Amman, a movement planned with reference to the 
September offensive in Palestine, but when, on the 20th 
of August, the column arrived at a point about fifteen 
miles south-east of 'Amman its presence was discovered by 
an enemy aeroplane observer, and because a surprise raid 
was no longer possible the column was withdrawn to Bayir, 
sixty miles north-east of Ma'an, and ultimately to Beer- 

The Final Offensive 

[Maps, pp. 175, 183, facing] 

During the summer months General AUenby turned 
over in his mind plans for the renewal of the offensive in 
Palestine on a decisive scale. He came to his final plan, of 
great boldness and simplicity, by stages. He had to take 


into account early rains, due at the beginning of November, 
and although he need not anticipate that they would be 
severe he must reckon that they might make the Plains of 
Sharon and Esdraelon impassable for transport except along 
one or tw^o roads. He decided, therefore, to begin his cam- 
paign about the middle of September. 

Broadly summarized, his plan v^as to mass the greater 
part of his infantry and cavalry along the eight miles of 
front in the plain betv^een the raiWay and the sea, and, 
by an overwhelming attack north-eastward, to break the 
Turkish defence system and clear a way for the cavalry to 
pass through to cut the Turkish rail and road communica- 
tions. The most important of the enemy centres was 
Der'a, the junction of the Palestine and Hejaz railways, 
but this objective was out of reach of General AUenby's 
armies and it was allotted to the Arabs under Sherif 

General AUenby outlined his general intentions in per- 
sonal instructions issued to his corps commanders on the 
1st of August. On the 22nd, however, he expanded his 
scheme of operations and it may be said that his amended 
plan had for ultimate object nothing less than the 
annihilation of the Turkish armies in Palestine. The main 
attack was to be made on the left by the XXI Corps 
(Lieutenant-General Sir E. S. Bullin) and by the Desert 
Mounted Corps (Lieutenant-General Sir H. G. Chauvel), 
while the XX Corps (Lieutenant-General Sir Philip W. 
Chetwode) was to advance astride the Nablus road. In the 
Jordan valley demonstrations to induce the enemy to 
expect an attack east of the river were to be made by 
Chaytor's Force (Major-General Sir E. W. C. Chaytor). 
At Qasr el Azraq, fifty miles east of 'Amman, the advanced 
column of the Arabs was to concentrate for raids against 
the railway north, south, and west of Der'a. 

After gaining a line from Qalqilye, on the railway nine 
miles south-south-west of Tul Karm, to the mouth of the 
Nahr el Faliq, the XXI Corps was to swing its left forward 
and advance in the direction of Nablus and Samaria. 
The Desert Mounted Corps was to push rapidly through 
to El 'Affule, forty miles distant from the British trenches 


on the coast and six and a half miles south of Nazareth. At 
Nazareth was the head-quarters of Liman von Sanders, and 
it was directed that a detachment should ride forward from 
El 'Affule to attempt the capture of the enemy Com- 
mander-in-Chief and his staif. The plans contemplated 
that El 'Affule would be reached on the second day of the 
attack, and if this happened the line of retreat of the 
enemy troops west of the Jordan by way of the Plain 
of Esdraelon would be cut. At El 'Affule the cavalry 
would also find themselves within a march of Beisan in the 
Jordan valley, and timely occupation of Beisan would 
cut the alternative road from Nablus to Damascus by 
way of Samakh on the southern shore of the Sea of 

The offensive began on the 19th of September. By this 
time the Royal Air Force in Palestine dominated the air, 
a fact which was to have a powerful influence on the 
battle. This dominance had not been brought about 
by a preliminary air offensive, but was the result of 
pressure exerted without intermission throughout the 
summer. It is beyond dispute that during the hot months 
the German pilots and observers had had a sorry time. Ill- 
equipped, remote from their sources of supply, attached 
to a neglected Turkish army whose morale was weakening, 
they had to meet aeroplanes superior in performance and 
number, piloted by officers imbued almost to the point of 
recklessness with the offensive spirit. The German pilots 
could seldom take to the air without being fiercely attacked. 
Time after time they were compelled to return to their 
aerodromes without being able to fulfil the missions which 
they had set out to attempt. They suffered steady casual- 
ties, and because they never knew when replacements 
would arrive, if at all, they must have realized that they 
were a force dying through slow attrition, impotent to do 
the work which waited and accumulated. All the British 
squadrons took part in the fighting by which the enemy 
pilots were subdued, but the employment of No. i Squadron 
Australian Flying Corps brought it most opportunities for 
combat and it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that 
the Bristol Fighters of the Australians kept the sky clear. 


Whether they were engaged on strategical reconnaissance, 
bombing attacks, or offensive patrols, the Australian flying 
officers never let pass an opportunity to seek out and fight 
enemy aircraft, usually pursuing their quarry to the ground 
w^here the destruction v^as often completed. During one 
week in June enemy pilots crossed the British lines one 
hundred times. In the last v^eek of August the visits had 
dropped to eighteen, and during the three following v^eeks 
were further reduced to a total of four. General Liman 
von Sanders has summed up the position as follows: 'The 
'German air personnel on the Palestine front had, through- 
'out the summer, experienced a very difhcult time against 
'the British. The German aeroplanes were greatly inferior 
'in climbing capabilities and in speed to the modern British 
'types. Two consignments of aircraft sent out as replace- 
'ments proved, almost without exception, to be useless. 
'Owing to the urgent needs of the German Western front 
'further replacements were out of the question. Between 
'the spring and the autumn the excellent air service lost 59 
'pilots and observers. In September air reconnaissances of 
'the British positions had almost ceased. Immediately a 
'German aeroplane put in an appearance it would be 
'attacked by such superior British formations that air 
'reconnaissance was impossible.'^ 

Before we pass from this question of air superiority the 
part played by the air organization in Egypt must be 
noticed. The Training Brigade (Brigadier-General P. L. W. 
Herbert) of the Middle East command constituted, in 
effect, a reserve of pilots and observers for the Palestine 
Brigade, and no shortage in personnel had to be feared. 
For the September offensive moreover officers of experi- 
ence and proved worth were provided by the Training 
Brigade for special duties not normally required under 
conditions of static warfare. In particular, air service 
officers were attached, for liaison, to the staffs of the 
military commanders, and they were able, as the opera- 
tions progressed, to make many suggestions for aeroplane 

On the morning of the 19th of September, when the 

' Fiinfjahre Tiirhei, p. 343. 


offensive opened, the Order of Battle of the Palestine 
Brigade, Royal Air Force, was as follows:^ 

Head-quarters (Brigadier-General A. E. Borton ,D.S.O.) 
Bir Salem 


Fifth (Corps) Wing 
(Lieutenant-Colonel C. S. Burnett, D.S.O.) 
Er Ramie 

14 Squadron 
Junction Station 
16 R.E.S's 
3 Nieuports 

113 Squadron 142 Squadron (less i Flight) 

Sarona Sarona 

16 R.E.S's 7 Armstrong-Whitworth's (160 h.p.) , 
5 Nieuports | 

I Flight 
5 R.E.S's 

Fortieth (Army) Wing 

(Lieutenant-Colonel R. Williams, D.S.O.) 

Er Ramie 


I Squadron A.F.C. 
Er Ramie 
18 Bristol Fighters 
I Handley Page 

III Squadron 
Er Ramie 
15 S.E.5a's 

144 Squadron 

Junction Station 

13 D.H.g's 

145 Squadron 

(H.Q. and i Flight) 

Er Ramie 


No. 21 Balloon Company 
Head-quarters Sarona 

49 Section 
E. of Kh. Hadra 

50 Section 
N. of Sh. Muwannis 

57 Section 
N. of Et. Tire, 8 m. NNE. of Lydda 

The Aircraft Park known as 'X' remained at Qantara, 
but an advanced stores and motor transport pool had been 
established at Er Ramie. It will be noticed that two of the 
corps squadrons had some Nieuport single-seaters in their 
possession, the reason being that it was considered desir- 
able to give them fighters which would be at hand to 
help the corps aeroplanes if they should be attacked. The 
Nieuports had, in other words, been specially provided for 
local protection, but it happened that they proved of value 
in a way which had not been foreseen. Once the battle began 
the single-seater fighter pilots often flew home with early 
news of important events. It may be said that they con- 
stituted an express reconnaissance service for reporting 
the major happenings in a battle situation which under- 
went rapid changes. A word must be said also about 
the Handley Page with No. i Squadron, A.F.C, the 
only aeroplane of its type in the Middle East. It had been 

^ The figures quoted for the various squadrons are for aeroplanes ser- 
2504.6 p 


flown out from England at the end of July by Brigadier- 
General A. E. Borton, accompanied by Major A. S. C. 
Maclaren, and it was to prove a powerful reinforcement 
of the bombing strength of the Palestine Brigade. 

The three corps squadrons co-operated as follows : No. 
113 Squadron with the XXI Corps in the coastal sector, 
No. 142 Squadron (less 'C Flight) with the Desert Mounted 
Corps in the same area, No. 14 Squadron with the XX 
Corps, and 'C Flight of No. 142 Squadron with Chaytor's 
Force in the Jordan valley. This left three squadrons and 
one Flight for strategical reconnaissance work and for 
offensive operations. 

No special instructions were issued to the Royal Air 
Force by the Commander-in-Chief. Instead, Major- 
General W. G. H. Salmond and his senior air officers were 
called into conference, and they were encouraged to suggest 
plans for the maximum employment of the air strength. For 
the success of General Allenby's scheme it was desirable : 
(i) that the Turks should be induced to expect an attack, 
if anywhere, in the eastern sector; (ii) that no information 
should be allowed to reach the enemy command of the 
movements behind the British lines from east to west, nor 
of the eventual concentration behind the XXI Corps front ; 
and (iii) that, once the battle began, knowledge of the 
early forward movements of the British cavalry in the 
coastal plain should remain hidden from the enemy higher 
command. The air officers contributed their ideas for 
effective concealment. In the eastern sector camps were 
left standing, horses moved about dragging brushwood to 
raise dust, and dummies were placed in the horse-lines. 
It could be assumed that if enemy aeroplanes attempted 
to make a reconnaissance of the area they would fly at great 
heights, certainly above 14,000 feet, and the suggestions put 
forward by the air commanders were of a kind to deceive 
observers looking down from such heights. The intention 
was not to provide special air patrols of the eastern sector, 
but to allow enemy observers to make fleeting reconnais- 
sances if they attempted to do so. On the other hand, strong 
and continuous patrols by fighting aircraft in the coastal 
area, especially between 12.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m. when 

i9i8] SURPRISE 211 

the horses would be watered, were planned. Movements 
were made by night, and if a movement had not been 
completed by 2.30 a.m. the troops had orders to halt and 
conceal themselves. Military police were posted by day 
to see that the orders were understood, and their instruc- 
tions were to signal, by whistle, the approach of enemy 
aeroplanes in order that troops might be warned to stay 
under cover. Those who were on the move when the warn- 
ing whistle blew were to halt immediately and they were 
forbidden to fire on the enemy aeroplane. All cooking was 
to be done by means of solidified alcohol instead of smoke- 
betraying fire, and no lights were to be shown at night. As 
a result of these and similar arrangements aimed at con- 
cealment, the enemy saw nothing of General Allenby's 
concentration for the battle. Surprise was achieved, but it 
was a near thing because the enemy obtained a warning of 
the attack from an unexpected quarter. On the 17th of 
September an Indian deserter crossed to the Turkish lines 
and he prattled about a British attack to be made in the 
coastal sector in two days' time. The news was given to 
Liman von Sanders, but he would not believe it, thinking 
that the Indian had been specially sent across by the British 
Intelligence service with the object of misleading him. 
An enemy intelligence map which was subequently found 
among the papers at Liman von Sanders's head-quarters in 
Nazareth made it clear that the enemy command enter- 
tained no sort of suspicion about the magnitude of the 
blow which the British had prepared. There is no evidence 
that the German Commander-in-Chief ordered a special 
air reconnaissance to test the truth of the deserter's state- 
ment. This would have been the part of wisdom, even 
though the information appeared to be tainted, and the 
loss of many aeroplanes would have been a light price 
to pay for such vital knowledge. The commander of 
the Turkish Eighth Army, who was more reluctant to 
discredit the deserter's story, pleaded to be allowed to 
withdraw to the Et Tire line, a movement which would 
assuredly have prejudiced the full success of the British 
offensive, but Liman von Sanders resolutely refused to 
allow any ground to be abandoned. It is possible that had 


a reconnaissance been attempted by a fast single-seater, 
making an approach from the sea in rear of the British 
hnes at a low height, in conjunction perhaps with a feint 
reconnaissance from the direction of the Turkish lines, the 
effort would have succeeded. It is not to be doubted that 
had the need and urgency been made clear to the German 
air service, whatever risks were necessary would have been 
taken to obtain the information which meant so much to 
the safety of the Palestine front. The enemy high com- 
mand cannot be absolved from blame for its apparent 

Apart from the maintenance of patrols over the western 
area, the Royal Air Force put forward no special activity 
before the battle began. It had been suggested that a 
preliminary bombing offensive against enemy aerodromes, 
artillery dumps, and certain communication centres, 
should be made, but, after full consideration, the air com- 
mand reported strongly against this suggestion on the 
grounds that a bombing offensive of the kind was certain 
to make the German command alert, and with this view 
the military staff ultimately concurred. 

An exception was made in the eastern area in conjunc- 
tion with operations by the Arabs under Sherif Feisal and 
Colonel T. E. Lawrence. The Arabs had moved north- 
ward to 'Azraq, fifty miles east of 'Amman, and a detach- 
ment of two aeroplanes of 'X' Flight (one Bristol Fighter 
and a B.E.) had flown to 'Azraq for reconnaissance of the 
three railways which centred on Der'a, objectives for the 
raiding activities of the Sherifian forces. A direct attack 
on Der'a was also contemplated, but the Arabs could 
undertake this operation only if the Royal Air Force 
promised 'so heavy a daylight bombing of Der'a station 
'that the effect would be tantamount to artillery bombard- 
'ment, enabling us to risk an assault against it with our few 
'men.'^ On the nth of September a Bristol Fighter from 
Palestine landed at 'Azraq with dispatches, and Colonel 
Lawrence learned from the pilot that an air bombardment 
of the intensity he desired was out of the question. He 
decided, therefore, to give up all idea of a direct attack, 
^ Seven Pillars of Wisdom, p. 585. 


and to concentrate instead on cutting the railway com- 
munications on all sides of Der'a. 

On the 15th of September the Bristol Fighter with 'X' 
Flight, after reconnoitring the railway north of Der'a, 
met and fought an enemy two-seater which was destroyed 
in flames, but the Bristol Fighter was itself so damaged by 
bullets that it had to be sent to Palestine for repair. 

While the Arabs were making one of their demolition 
raids on the i6th, six D.H.9's of No. 144 Squadron dropped 
five Ii2-lb. and forty-eight 20-lb. bombs on Der'a junc- 
tion from 1,000 feet. 'About two in the afternoon as we 
'drove towards the railway', wrote Colonel Lawrence, 'we 
'had the great sight of a swarm of our bombing planes 
'droning steadily up towards Der'a on their first raid. The 
'place had hitherto been carefully reserved from air attack, 
'so the damage among the unaccustomed, unprotected, 
'unarmed garrison was heavy. The morale of the men 
'suffered as much as the railway traflic: and till our on- 
'slaught from the north forced them to see us, all their 
'efforts went into digging bomb-proof shelters.'^ Der'a 
was bombed again on the 17th by a similar number of 
D.H.9's. The attacks inflicted damage on the station 
buildings and neighbouring camps, depressed the occupants 
of the town, and encouraged the Arabs, but what was of 
chief importance was that the air activity in the eastern 
sector, at a time when there was comparative quiet in the 
western area, helped further to deceive the enemy into the 
belief that the eastern sector remained the vital one. 

There is evidence that German aeroplanes were trans- 
ferred from the Jenin aerodrome to Der'a on the 17th of 
September. On this day, when an Arab force was blowing 
up a part of the line, eight aeroplanes from Der'a attacked 
them with bombs and machine-guns. Lieutenant H. R. 
Junor, in a B.E.12 from 'X' Flight detachment at 'Azraq, 
had left on his own initiative to make a reconnaissance 
of the Der'a aerodrome, and he appeared just when the 
Arabs were being bombed. 'We watched with mixed feel- 
'ings, for his hopelessly old-fashioned machine made him 
'cold meat for any one of the enemy scouts or two-seaters ; 
^ Seven Pillars of Wisdom, p. 590. 


'but at first he astonished them, as he rattled in with his 
'two guns. They scattered for a careful look at this un- 
'expected opponent. He flew westward across the line, 
'and they went after in pursuit, with that amiable weak- 
'ness of aircraft for a hostile machine, however important 
'the ground target. We were left in perfect peace'. ^ Lieu- 
tenant Junor, when his petrol was nearly finished, was 
eventually forced to land near the Arabs he had helped. 
His aeroplane was damaged on landing and was afterwards 
hit by a bomb from one of the pursuing aeroplanes. There 
was no reserve aeroplane at 'Azraq, so the pilot asked for 
temporary employment with the Arabs and he was put in 
command of a Ford car in which he ran along the railway 
towards Der'a and blew up a stretch of the track. 

The employment of the squadrons of the Palestine 
Brigade, once the battle began, reveals how carefully the 
staff had planned. An initial bombing offensive was directed 
against the main Turkish telegraphic and telephonic centres, 
whose positions were known from intelligence sources and 
from air photographs. The bombing was begun by the 
Handley Page piloted by Captain Ross M. Smith who 
set out at 1. 15 a.m. on the 19th of September, with six- 
teen Ii2-lb. bombs, to attack the central telephone ex- 
change of the Army Group, at El 'Affule. At 6.30 a.m. 
five D.H.9's of No. 144 Squadron attacked the same 
objective with four 112-lb. and thirty-two 20-lb. bombs, 
and eight pilots of the squadron attacked it again at 11.25 
a.m. (eight 1 12-lb., sixty- four 20-lb. bombs). An examina- 
tion of the target after the British advance revealed the 
majority of the telephone wires lying tangled in bomb 

The objectives next in importance were the head- 
quarters and telephone exchanges of the Turkish Eighth 
Army at Tul Karm, and of the Turkish Seventh Army at 
Nablus. No. 144 Squadron attacked the Nablus targets at 
5.20 a.m. and, a little later, the head-quarters at Tul Karm 
were bombed by No. 142 Squadron. No. 14 Squadron 
also co-operated with dawn attacks on three minor Turkish 
^ Seven Pillars of Wisdom, p. 596. 

I9I8] FOG OF WAR 215 

head-quarters. Some hits on the various head-quarters 
were reported by the bombing pilots, but no details of 
the damage inflicted can be given. General Liman von 
Sanders, however, throws light upon the general military 
results of the bombing. 'Shortly after daybreak', he says, 
'British air squadrons appeared over the head-quarters of 
'the Seventh and Eighth Armies, over the camps of the 
'various corps head-quarters, and over the central tele- 
'phone offices of the Army Group at 'Affule. From low 
'heights they attacked with bombs and destroyed part of 
'the telephone line. . . . Telephonic and telegraphic com- 
'munication between Tul Karm and Nazareth ceased 
'about 7 a.m. The wireless station of the head-quarters of 
'the Eighth Army also failed to reply when called.'^ 

It appears that communication between Nablus and 
Nazareth was restored about noon, and Liman von Sanders 
then learned the surprising news that the British had 
broken through the Turkish Seventh Army in the coast 
sector. Nablus also reported that it had been impossible 
to establish communication with the Seventh Army head- 
quarters at Tul Karm. Thereafter, only meagre and con- 
flicting reports reached Liman von Sanders. Nor could 
he look to his air service to dissipate the fog of war. 'Since 
'early morning', he says, 'head-quarters had felt the great 
'drawback that the German air service had been unable to 
'observe and report what was happening on the battle 
'front and along the lines of retreat. '^ 

The arrangements made to keep the German aeroplanes 
on the ground on the 19th of September were specially 
suited to the conditions on the Palestine front, where the 
morale of the enemy pilots and observers had suffered 
as a result of the aggressive tactics of the Royal Air Force 
throughout the summer. The chief enemy aerodrome was 
at Jenin, and patrols by pairs of S.E.5a's of Nos. 11 1 and 
145 Squadrons were maintained over this aerodrome from 
dawn to dusk. Each pilot carried four 20-lb. bombs which 
were to be released when any sign of activity was seen. 
As each relieving pair of S.E.5a's arrived over Jenin, the 

^ Funfjahre Tilrkei, p. 346. 
^ Ibid., p. 352. 


departing pilots were to drop what bombs remained, either 
on the aerodrome or on the station. Twelve pairs of 
S.E.'5s were so engaged during the day and 104 bombs 
were dropped : no German pilot left the ground. 

To sum up, the Royal Air Force, hy early bombing on 
the 19th, severed an important part of the telephonic and 
telegraphic communications and so prevented the enemy 
commands from acquiring more than a fragmentary know- 
ledge of what was happening, and by continuous patrol 
overawed the German air service and rendered it impotent. 

Before the progress of the offensive can be considered, 
some additional preliminary arrangements for aircraft co- 
operation must be noted. Owing to the difficult nature 
of the country the lines of retreat open to the Turks were 
defined. Every possible route was photographed from the 
air, and those defiles in which bombing attacks upon moving 
columns would exert a maximum effect were methodically 
noted. If guns or transport could be caught and bombed 
in the defiles it was almost certain that the way of escape 
of the enemy would be blocked. The main lines of retreat 
were (a) Tul Karm to Samaria; (b) Samaria to Jenin; 
(c) 'Anebta, on the Tul Karm road, to Jenin; (d) Nablus- 
Wadi el Far'a-Jisr ed Damiye, and (e) Balata-Wadi el 
Far'a-Khirbet Ferweh-Beisan. The arrangement was that 
when the battle began the routes were to be kept under 
observation by Bristol Fighters of No. i Squadron 
(Australian Flying Corps), fitted with long-range wireless 
sets. Royal Air Force head-quarters would thus be en- 
abled to receive immediate information about retreating 
Turkish columns and would be in a position to judge the 
times and places best suited for a concentrated bombing 
offensive. In addition to this special watch over the im- 
portant routes, general strategical reconnaissances were to 
be made during the operations. 

The tactical duties of the corps squadrons were pre- 
arranged with similar attention to detail. No. 142 Squad- 
ron, attached to the Cavalry Corps, was charged with the 
duty of keeping Cavalry head-quarters, and General Head- 
quarters, informed of the progress of the leading cavalry 
divisions, and was also required to maintain liaison between 


these head-quarters. A liaison officer, Lieutenant-Colonel 
W. H. Primrose, with equipment by which pilots could, if 
the occasion arose, pick up messages without the need to 
land, was attached to cavalry head-quarters. Observers of 
No. 113 Squadron, working with the XXI Corps, were to 
drop their messages at divisional and brigade head-quarters, 
and were to receive messages as necessary by way of a 
Popham signalling panel. When the forward movement 
began, the head-quarters of the XXI Corps were to keep 
the squadron fully informed of the successive new centres 
upon which messages for subordinate commanders were 
to be dropped. The infantry carried disks and flares and 
had orders to display them when called upon to do so by a 
Klaxon horn signal from a contact-patrol aeroplane. The 
infantry were also instructed to light flares if in the early 
stages of the advance British shells were found to be falling 
short; by a special urgent wireless call the air observers 
could convey an immediate warning to the corps artillery 

The attack by the XXI Corps began at 4.45 a.m. on the 
I gthof September and the Turks were quickly overwhelmed. 
A novel attempt to help the infantry was made by No. 113 
Squadron. An apparatus had been invented by the Royal 
Air Force in the Middle East by means of which sixty 
candles could be dropped successively to create a smoke 
screen about 400 yards long. Twice on the 19th of Septem- 
ber screens were put down on the front of the XXI Corps 
by two pilots. The places where the screens were to be 
made were chosen before the attack began; the first was 
laid according to plan, but on the second occasion the 
pilots found that the infantry had already advanced far 
beyond the appointed line, and they therefore reconnoitred 
the front and eventually dropped their smoke candles to 
screen a Turkish position which was seen to be holding 
up the British advance. No further opportunities to ex- 
ploit this form of aircraft co-operation occurred because, 
although the infantry could call by ground signal for a 
screen if required, the Turks were entirely overrun. 

About 7 a.m. the Desert Mounted Corps began to tread 
a way along the beach, and through flagged paths in the 


Turkish wire, and half an hour later were moving against 
the enemy rear communications. Soon after they started 
off a pilot and observer of No. 113 Squadron, who were 
engaged on artillery patrol on the front of the XXI Corps, 
saw the leading regiment (Hodson's Horse) of the 13th 
Cavalry Brigade, the head of the advanced guard, trot- 
ting along the beach. They watched the horsemen cross 
the Nahr el Faliq and move towards the coast road. A 
little distance off the road was a house and an orchard, 
a likely point of resistance, and the pilot therefore flew 
over it and discovered that the orchard was crowded with 
Turkish troops and transport. The air observer scribbled 
this information, and dropped the message on the leading 
squadron of Hodson's Horse which galloped forward and 
attacked at once. The Turks, who were taken by surprise, 
could open only a wild fire, and the dashing action of the 
troopers led to the quick capture of the orchard with 
sixty prisoners, two guns, and twelve wagons, at a cost of 
one man killed and two men wounded. 

At noon on the 19th an air report was brought in which 
illuminated, as in a flash, the nature of the British success, 
and made it clear that an opportunity had come for the 
Royal Air Force to strike. It was revealed that masses of 
Turkish troops, cumbered with mixed transport, were 
retreating along the road running east from Tul Karm 
through 'Anebta towards Nablus. Air photographs, pre- 
viously obtained, had indicated that the route traversed a 
defile along which it would be impossible for transport to 
leave the road. All available aircraft were immediately 
ordered to bomb the column in the defile, and the unhappy 
Turks were given their first real experience of concentrated 
aircraft attacks. Bristol Fighters, D.H.9's, and S.E.5a's of 
the army wing, together with the squadrons of the corps 
wing, took part in the attacks which continued throughout 
the afternoon. Six 112-lb. and more than three hundred 
20-lb. or 25-lb. bombs were dropped, and many thousands 
of rounds of machine-gun ammunition were fired from low 
heights. As was afterwards discovered, the material damage 
was high and the retreating Turks were disorganized and 
delayed. 'The British air squadrons', writes Liman von 

ME6IDD0. 1918. Situation at 12 m.n. l9"/20^- Sept.. 1918. 



Scale of Milea. 

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.Der'8 ARMY 
I Umtaiye 


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fEr Ramie 


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<iM in ^itterical Section (Military Branch^ 


Ordnaaae Survey 1927. 



Sanders, 'relieved every half hour, flew^ very low and con- 
'tinuously bombed, and they covered the roads with dead 
*men and horses and shattered transport. The repeated 
'attempts of officers to rally at least some of the demora- 
'lized troops were made in vain as the men were entirely 
'indifferent and were concerned only for their own sal- 
ivation!'^ It is known that the enemy twice contrived to 
clear a way through the road after some of the early bomb- 
ing, but that they subsequently abandoned the attempt : 
the road was left blocked with tangled bodies and 

By nightfall on the 19th of September the British left 
had swung forward to Tul Karm and some 7,000 prisoners 
with 100 guns had been captured. The two Turkish 
divisions in the Plain of Sharon had ceased to exist as effec- 
tive military formations, and the men who had escaped 
capture were in panic flight, mindful only of their safety. 
What they did not know was that British cavalry were 
already moving through the Samarian hills to bar the way 
of, escape. 

As it was anticipated that the cavalry might reach El 
'Affule before dawn on the 20th, the night attacks by the 
Handley Page were directed against Jenin station and 
aerodrome on which two tons of bombs were dropped 
during two visits. When later the Jenin aerodrome came 
to be captured it was revealed that three aeroplanes had 
been destroyed by the night bombing and it appeared 
that others had received sufficient damage to make them 
unfit to fly.2 

The first news from the air on the morning of the 20th 
was awaited with impatience. The pilots and observers 
of No. I Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, who made 
the early strategical reconnaissances, had the best general 
view of the Turkish plight. Four Bristol Fighters of the 
squadron left at 5 a.m., two for the western area of opera- 

^ Fiinfjahre Tiirkei, p. 352. 

2 When Jenin aerodrome was captured three two-seaters and eight 
Pfalz single-seater scouts were found burned. There were also eight 
damaged engines, a quantity of damaged stores, and about thirty un- 
damaged aircraft machine-guns. 


tions and two for the eastern. They were back again soon 
after 8 a.m., having dropped messages teUing of what they 
had seen on the advanced head-quarters of the XXI Corps 
and on the head-quarters of the XX Corps. 

The pilots and observers had looked down in the western 
area upon the camps between 'Anebta and Deir Sheraf 
and had seen that most of them had been burnt or aban- 
doned. In El Masudiye station Turkish infantry were 
engaged in the hurried loading of trains. Most significant 
of all were scattered movements of cavalry, camelry, and 
transport, all along the road from Burqa towards Jenin. 
At Jenin itself the dumps appeared normal, but two fires 
were seen burning near the station, and a partial dismant- 
ling of the hangars on the aerodrome left no doubt that 
the evacuation of the area was under way. At El 'Affule 
there was rolling stock in the station, but no engines, and 
although four aeroplanes were standing on the aerodrome 
the hangars and marquees had gone. Just after making their 
flight over El 'Affule the Bristol Fighters had come upon 
advancing British cavalry, and they had looked back to 
watch the troopers moving rapidly towards El 'Affule. 
The Australian pilots and observers who reconnoitred the 
eastern area had less that was abnormal to report. They 
had seen that the aerodrome at Balata had been abandoned, 
as had some of the camps in the neighbourhood of Nablus, 
and they had noticed transport in rapid movement towards 
Beisan on the road through Tubas, but it was clear that 
the Turkish Seventh Army had not as yet been generally 

The reports brought in by the Bristol Fighters, which 
were confirmed and amplified by reports from other pilots 
and observers, led to intensive bombing attacks on the 
columns retreating along the road to Jenin and the road 
to Beisan. As the day wore on the Turkish movements in- 
creased, and in the afternoon it was seen that all the dumps 
at Jenin were ablaze. By the time that darkness wrapped 
the Judean hills the Royal Air Force had dropped ten tons 
of bombs upon the retreating Turks and their transport 
and had fired 40,000 rounds of machine-gun ammunition 
into them. An idea of the confusion within the enemy 


lines may be obtained from the adventures which befell an 
S.E.5a pilot, Second Lieutenant E. R. Stafford, of No. 145 
Squadron. He had left his aerodrome at Er Ramie at 1 1 .30 
a.m. on the 20th to patrol over the road from Jenin to El 
'Affule, v^ith orders to attack any suitable targets which 
presented themselves. When he was flying above Jenin at 
noon he saw about 500 Turkish soldiers a-ssembled in the 
main street and he dived upon them and scattered them 
with fire from his twin machine-guns. He then continued 
along the road to El ^Affule and attacked motor-cars and a 
small column of mechanical transport. Shortly afterwards, 
at the moment when he was diving upon a party of,soldiers, 
the engine in the S.E.5a failed and a forced landing had to 
be made west of the Jenin-El 'Affule road. The pilot set 
fire to his aeroplane and moved off on foot to make his 
escape, but he was pursued and captured by mounted 
Turkish officers who had galloped forward from the party 
he had been in the act of attacking when the engine failed. 
The Turks took the pilot back to the road and told him as 
they went that he would be handed over to the local com- 
mander when the party reached El 'Affule. Before Second 
Lieutenant Stafford had left his aerodrome at Er Ramie he 
had been told that air reports had revealed British cavalry 
in El 'Affule, but he kept a discreet silence and awaited 
the shock which he knew the Turks would duly receive. The 
Turkish officers, however, as they approached El 'Affule, 
were apparently made uneasy, and after examining the 
place through their field-glasses they turned their party 
about, but they had not gone far before what were un- 
mistakably Indian cavalry appeared ahead of them. Accept- 
ing what seemed inevitable they hoisted white handker- 
chiefs and bits of garment on sticks and rifles and turned to 
march into El 'Affule where their surrender was accepted. 
The pilot, free once more, went to the former German 
aerodrome at El 'Affule where Royal Air Force aeroplanes 
were already in possession. When he arrived he found 
that one of the British pilots was about to leave for Er 
Ramie with German mail which had been flown down 
from Riyaq a few hours earlier. What had happened was 
that soon after the advanced cavalry had entered El 'Affule, 


at about 8 a.m., a Bristol Fighter pilot, engaged on a 
strategical reconnaissance, was making to land on the aero- 
drome to report to the cavalry when he noticed a German 
two-seater aeroplane which was approaching with the 
obvious intention of landing also. The Bristol Fighter 
pilot courteously gave way, keeping watch as the German 
descended. When the two-seater came to rest it was 
captured by a waiting armoured car, and it was revealed 
that the pilot had flown from Riyaq with two bags of 
German mail consigned to head-quarters at El 'Affule. 

From the afternoon of the 20th of September the El 
'Affule aerodrome was used as an advanced landing-ground 
for reconnaissance aeroplanes. That is to say, about thirty 
hours after the British offensive had been launched, aircraft 
of the Royal Air Force were operating from an aerodrome 
which was forty miles inside the Turkish lines when the 
attack had begun. Supplies of petrol, oil, and spares were 
flown to El 'Affule from Er Ramie and from Sarona. 

After entering El 'Affule at 8 a.m. on the 20th the 
advanced cavalry of the 4th Cavalry Division had turned 
eastwards towards Beisan, which was reached at 4.35 p.m. 
A reference to the map will show how the main ways of 
escape to the north had thus been cut. The 5th Cavalry 
Division, meanwhile, had made a brilliant dash for Naza- 
reth. The 13th Brigade of this division had ridden into 
Nazareth soon after dawn on the 20th, had captured the 
head-quarters of the Army Group with members of the 
staff and important documents, and had only just missed 
taking General Liman von Sanders himself. In the late 
afternoon the 3rd Australian Light Horse, which had 
swung south-east from El Lajjun, galloped into burning 
Jenin where they made prisoners of the rabble of soldiers 
still in the town, many of whom had been subjected to air- 
craft bombing as they had pursued their escape along the 
Burqa-Jenin road. 

The position on the evening of the 20th of September, 
as the air reports revealed, was one of absorbing interest. 
In the west the Turkish Eighth Army had been shattered. 
In the centre the Turkish Seventh Army, slow to take 
alarm, was stirring, but its lines of retreat to the north were 


already in British hands and the only way to safety lay in 
an easterly direction across the river Jordan. To the east 
the Turkish Fourth Army had quietly maintained its 
positions throughout the day in ignorance of the drama 
being played out west of the Jordan. 

The routes to the Jordan which lay open to the rem- 
nants of the Turkish Eighth Army, and to the Turkish 
Seventh Army, on the evening of the 20th were: 

(i) Nablus-Ain es Subian-Tubas, and thence to the 
river at Makhadet el Mas 'Udi or the more northerly 
crossing at Makhadet Abu Naji. 
(ii) Nablus-Ain es Subian-down the Wadi el Far'a to 
'Ain Shible, and thence in a north-easterly direction 
to the crossing at Makhadet el Mas 'Udi. 
(iii) By way of the old Roman road through Beit Furik. 
(iv) through Majdal Beni Fadl. 

(v) and, most important of the routes south of Nablus, 
but also the most difhcult to reach, down the Wadi 
el Far'a to the crossing at Jisr ed Damiye. 
The XX Corps on the 20th of September had made some 
progress in difficult country, but the resistance of the 
Turkish Seventh Army had remained unbroken. It seemed 
clear, however, that when it came to be fully realized that 
British cavalry lay across the lines of communication at 
El 'Affule and Beisan, the Turkish Seventh Army would 
break up and its one concern would be escape. Lieutenant- 
General Sir P. W. Chetwode, commanding the XX Corps, 
gave orders to the 5 3rd Division to push forward during the 
night, regardless of fatigue and distance, in an attempt to 
reach and secure the Wadi-el Far'a road and thus cut all 
the lines of retreat to the Jordan except those leading in a 
north-easterly direction throu2:h Tubas and throu2:h 'Ain 
Shible. _ ^ ^ 

The 158th Brigade of the 53rd Division had, by the even- 
ing of the 2 1 St, cut the two southerly routes to the Jordan 
through Majdal Beni Fadl and through Beit Furik. The 
division was then ordered to stand fast because there was 
no longer any need to intercept the columns pouring down 
the Wadi el Far'a road to the safety of the river. The way 
had been blocked by the Royal Air Force. The loth 


Division, which had brought the section of the road between 
Nablus and Ain es Subian under fire at noon on the 21st, 
had by the evening reached the road north-east of Nablus. 
There was no need for the division, fatigued after two 
days of strenuous marching and fighting in the rough 
ground of Mount Ephraim, to push forward to secure the 
guns and transport on the Wadi el Far'a road because the 
air bombing had been so effective that there was no chance 
of anything being moved. 

The story of the 21st of September, the outstanding 
day in the history of the Palestine Brigade, begins with the 
dawn reconnaissance patrol sent out by No. i Squadron, 
Australian Flying Corps. Two Bristol Fighters (pilots, 
Captain A. R. Brown and Lieutenant S. A. Nunan; 
observers. Lieutenants G. Finlay and F. C. Conrick) left 
at 5 a.m. and found that Turkish guns and transport were 
pouring into Balata, east of Nablus, and moving on to 
Ferweh and the Wadi el Far'a road. No activity was seen 
along the Beisan road through Tubas, all the movement 
being down the Wadi el Far'a. A message was sent back by 
wireless just before 6 a.m. and general bombing of the 
Turks was ordered at once. The two reconnoitring Bristol 
Fighters dropped 1 6 bombs and fired 600 rounds of machine- 
gun ammunition on transport on the section of road between 
Balata and Ferweh. Except from the air the ways of retreat 
across the Jordan, whether through Tubas or through 'Ain 
Shibli, could not be blocked in time to prevent a great part 
of these retreating columns from escaping. At 6.30 a.m. 
three Bristol Fighters from No. i Squadron, Australian 
Flying Corps, the first to be sent out in response to the 
wireless message, attacked the column. At 9 a.m. a recon- 
naissance by No. 113 Squadron reported scattered move- 
ments on the Beisan road through Tubas, and considerable 
movements on the roads and wadis east of Tubas leading 
to the Jordan. By 11 a.m., by which time the pressure 
exerted by the advancing loth Division was leading to 
chaotic movements, the air observers had a view of a con- 
tinuous stream of transport and troops crowding and jost- 
ling along the Wadi el Far'^a to 'Ain Shible. It was arranged 
that two bombing aeroplanes should arrive over the Balata- 


Ferweh-'Ain Shible road every three minutes, with, in 
addition, a bombing formation of six every half hour. The 
attacks were not made precisely as intended, but they 
were maintained fairly continuously until about noon, 
when intensive bombing of the Upper Wadi el Far'a 
ceased to be necessary, and full attention could be turned 
to the Tubas road area. 

The chief attacks fell to the Bristol Fighters of No. i 
Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, each carrying eight 
20-lb. bombs, to the D.H.9's of No. 144 Squadron, each 
carrying one 112-lb. and eight 20-lb. bombs, and to the 
S.E.5a's of Nos. 1 1 1 and 145 Squadrons (four 20-lb. bombs), 
but the three corps squadrons (14, 113, and 142) also took 
a part in the attacks. Throughout the day 9J tons of 
bombs were dropped and 56,000 rounds of machine-gun 
ammunition were fired amongst the retreating Turks. In 
the official war diaries for this day there are eighty-eight 
reports of bombing by individual pilots, and eighty- four 
reports of machine-gun attacks. Laconic as the reports are, 
they yet convey a terrible picture of maddened Turkish 
soldiers among heights and precipices from which there 
was no easy way of escape. Drivers were seen to jump from 
their lorries, which crashed out of control into the transport 
in front and often carried a piled-up mass into the ravines 
below. Horses were seen to stampede and men to rush 
anywhere in panic, many of them waving signals of sur- 
render to the pilots, some of them prostrating themselves, 
as it were in supplication to these new mechanical furies 
from out of the heavens. Once the bombing of the head of 
the transport columns in the Wadi el Far'a had caused an 
effective dam, the attacks degenerated into a slaughter 
which made many pilots sick who took part. Few Turks 
had the courage to fire back at their darting enemy, but 
there was some rifle fire from men who had escaped to 
the hills overlooking the wadi, and two of the aeroplanes 
fell in the passes and their occupants were killed. 

'I dived', says a typical report of a machine-gun attack, 
'and fired continually on the thickest part of column. They 
'were literally sprayed and I succeeded in inflicting heavy 
'casualties'. As an example of the bombing, we may quote 

2504.6 n 


from a report: '4 direct hits, one in a body of cavalry 
roughly 50 strong: the bomb appeared to have practically 
demolished them as less than 6 got up and ran away. All 
the rest fell and remained stationary. 3 bombs direct hits 
on large lorries. One lorry blown off road into valley by 
direct hit ; the other two bombs fell among transport on 
road causing wreckage. The road must be impassable for 

The road was indeed impassable for transport, but it 
was not until army officers rode forward next day that the 
completeness of the blockage was revealed. The damage as 
a direct result of hits by bombs was not unduly great. It 
was evident that the blind panic induced by the air attacks 
had done much to create the chaos. At one part of the 
road lorries, abandoned in motion, had crashed forward 
into guns which had been carried with their teams into 
other transport wagons, and the accumulation had gone 
tearing on, shedding lorries and guns over the precipice on 
the way, until at last it had been brought to a standstill by 
its own weight. Along the length of the defile lay the 
torn bodies of men and of animals. It took many days 
before some sort of order and sanitation could be restored 
to the road. There were found in all about 100 guns, 
55 motor lorries, 4 motor-cars, 837 four-wheeled wagons, 
75 two-wheeled wagons, and 20 water-carts and field 
kitchens: a great part of the transport had to be burnt 
on the spot. 

Some of the Turkish troops who had endeavoured to 
escape along the Tubas-Beisan road had continued to Beisan 
without knowing that it was in British hands and had been 
made prisoners as they arrived. Others, more suspicious or 
more alert to the possibilities of the situation, had left the 
main road and had made for the Jordan crossings. It will be 
recalled that air observers had seen such movements towards 
the Jordan on the morning of the 21st, but it would appear 
that Lieutenant-General Sir H. G. Chauvel, commanding 
the Desert Mounted Column, did not receive information 
that the crossings at Makhadet Abu Naji and Makhudet 
el Mas 'Udi were being used until the evening of the 22nd, 
too late for action to be taken that night. It had not been 


possible for the 4th Cavalry Division, v^hich had reached 
Beisan on the afternoon of the 20th, and had secured the 
crossings immediately east and south-east of that place, to 
move south down the Jordan valley. In the words of the 
military historian: Trom Beisan to Jisr ed Damiye was a 
^distance of 25 miles, and it was suddenly realized on the 
'afternoon of the 22nd that this constituted a serious hole 
*in the net. The failure to close it by a movement south- 
ward along the Jordan on the part of the 4th Cavalry 
'Division simultaneous with the approach of Chaytor's 
'Force to Jisr ed Damiye^ was, in fact, the sole blot on an 
'operation the main line of which had hitherto been per- 
'fection itself. It must be remembered, however, that the 
'Division had had to piquet the road from Beisan half-way 
'to El *Aifule, that it had been encumbered with prisoners, 
'and that rations had not been delivered at Beisan until the 

When Lieutenant-General Chauvel heard that the Jor- 
dan gap was being exploited he ordered the 4th Cavalry 
Division to move south along both banks of the river on the 
morning of the 23rd to intercept the retreating Turks. 
Meanwhile, on the 22nd, the enemy troops had been 
attacked from the air, particularly along the 'Ain Shible- 
Beisan road. Nearly four tons of bombs had been dropped 
upon them and 30,000 rounds of machine-gun ammunition 
fired and there had, as a result, been many signs of panic 
with a noticeable waving to the pilots of white flags. 

A part of the 4th Cavalry Division moved down the 
Jordan valley as ordered on the morning of the 23rd and 
surprised the rear-guard of the Asia Corps in the act of 
crossing at Makhadet Abu Naji. After a brief action 800 
prisoners were taken, including a divisional commander. 
Meanwhile another action had developed at a ford a mile or 
so farther south which, after a fierce fight, resulted in the 
capture of an additional 4,000 Turks. After their strenuous 
day the cavalry went into bivouac for the night about four 
miles south-west of Makhadet Abu Naji. The southward 

^ Chaytor's Force secured the crossing at Jisr ed Damiye on the 22nd. 
^ Military Operations: Egypt and Palestine, hy Captain Cyril Falls, 
Vol. II, Pt. II, p. 538. 


sweep was resumed next morning, the 24t]i, as soon as 
rations had been received. CaptainH. I. Hanmer (observer, 
Second Lieutenant F. E. Thomson) of No. 142 Squadron 
left the advanced aerodrome at El 'Affule at 8 a.m. on the 
24th to make a reconnaissance. At about 10 a.m., when 
flying over the area east of Tubas, large numbers of Turkish 
infantry and cavalry were seen making their way down the 
bed of the Wadi Marma Fiad towards the crossing at Mak- 
hadet El Mas 'Udi. Messages giving this information were 
scribbled and dropped on the nth Cavalry Brigade as well 
as on the head-quarters of the 4th Cavalry Division: it 
happened that about the same time reports of the Turkish 
movement were received from an advanced observation 
post of the Middlesex Yeomanry. An exciting race for the 
Jordan crossings^ ensued. A few Turks succeeded in escap- 
ing in disorder over the river, but the main body was 
headed off, and after a fierce engagement on both sides of 
the river, in which the Turks suffered heavy casualties, the 
enemy troops, to the number of 5,000, were rounded up as 
prisoners. The Turkish Seventh Army had ceased to exist. 

Chaytor^s Force 
[Maps, pp. 183, 234] 

While the debacle west of the Jordan had been taking 
place the Turkish Fourth Army, east of the river, had been 
inactive. Even as late as the evening of the 21st of 
September, when the two Turkish Armies west of the river 
had already ceased to possess fighting value, air reconnais- 
sance reports showed the Turkish camps between 'Amman 
and Shunet Nimrin to be normal. In the afternoon of the 
22nd, however, the air observers had found that the whole 
area of the Fourth Army was astir. 

Before the operations of Chaytor's Force can be con- 
sidered it will be necessary to refer to the progress of the 
Arab campaign. When the offensive in Palestine opened 
the advanced Arab force was at El Umtaiye, south-east of 
Der'a, where it was strategically well placed for operations 

* There was also a ford about a mile south of the Makhadet El Mas 'Udi 


against the three railways, important sections of which the 
Arabs had aheady cut. On the 21st of September a Bristol 
Fighter had landed at El Umtaiye with dispatches, and 
Colonel T. E. Lawrence then learned for the first time of 
the break through on the coast, news which changed the 
whole outlook for the Arabs. Colonel Lawrence decided 
to pay an immediate visit in the Bristol Fighter to head- 
quarters in Palestine, and a few hours later he was confer- 
ring with General AUenby. He learned that the next main 
advance would be a march on Damascus in which the Arabs 
would be able to co-operate. Colonel Lawrence pointed 
out that the German pilots were very active in the neigh- 
bourhood of Der'a and that the Arabs were much handi- 
capped by their impotence in the air. Major-General 
W. G. H. Salmond and Brigadier-General A. E. Borton 
were asked by General Allenby what could be done to help. 
The difficulty was one of supply, but Major-General Sal- 
mond said that this difficulty might be overcome by using 
the Handley Page as a sort of air tender. He asked whether 
this bomber, which was heavy and also required a long run, 
would find ground suitable for landing east of the Hejaz 
railway, and the reply of Colonel Lawrence was that he 
thought there would be no difficulty, but he preferred that 
an expert should go back with him to see for himself. Next 
morning two Bristol Fighters and one D.H.9 set out for 
El Umtaiye, but when the aeroplanes arrived the Arabs 
were no longer there. They were duly traced to Umm es 
Surab and it was learned that they had retreated in order 
to escape from the attention of German aircraft. The noise 
of the approaching British aeroplanes had sent the Arabs 
scattering to cover, but they came running forward in 
jubilation after the pilots had landed. 

The party had not long been seated at breakfast when 
the cry of 'aeroplanes' was raised by the Arabs, and an 
enemy two-seater, with three single-seater fighters in 
company, quickly came into view. The Bristol Fighter 
pilots and their observers rushed to their aeroplanes and 
within a short time the German two-seater had been 
destroyed by Captain Ross M. Smith and his observer. 
Lieutenant E. A. Mustard: some bombs exploded when 


the enemy aeroplane was burning on the ground. The 
single-seaters had meanwhile disappeared and the two 
Bristol Fighter pilots therefore returned, but they had 
not long landed when a warning of hostile aeroplanes was 
again given. The Bristol Fighters went away once more 
and found three Pfalz scouts, presumably the same as had 
escorted the destroyed two-seater. They were flying low 
over the burning wreckage of the German aeroplane, and 
when they were attacked, two of them at once landed : the 
third was pursued by the Bristol Fighters until it went down 
on the Der'a aerodrome. In the afternoon an enemy two- 
seater appeared over the Umm es Surab camp and dropped 
bombs from 10,000 feet. Lieutenant G. C. Peters, in one 
of the Bristol Fighters (observer, Lieutenant J. H. Traill), 
took off immediately and caught up with the enemy north 
of Der'a. After a brief attack at close range, the enemy 
aeroplane went down in smoke and seemed to be destroyed 
when it hit the ground. Later, when the Arabs advanced, 
they found the wreckage of the German aeroplane with 
two charred bodies. 

Next day Captain Ross Smith, accompanied by Brigadier- 
General Borton, landed the Handley Page safely at Umm 
es Surab. Its arrival created excitement, and news of the re- 
sources at the disposal of the Arabs was soon carried far and 
wide. On the landing-ground the Handley Page stood with 
the Bristol Fighters near, and the Arabs grouped them- 
selves around in wonder, saying: 'Indeed and at last they 
'have sent us the aeroplane, of which these things were 
'foals.' I The Handley Page carried in its fuselage, and on 
its bomb racks, about a ton of petrol for the use of the 
Bristol Fighters, together with spares and oil and a mis- 
cellaneous assortment of supplies which included tea, 
sugar, medical stores, and also mail. The Handley Page 
returned to Er Ramie after Brigadier-General Borton had 
arranged that it should be employed to make night attacks 
on Mafraq and Der'a. 

. The force in the valley of the Jordan commanded by 
Major-General Chaytor was responsible for the defence 
^ Ssren Pillars of Wisdom, p. 619. 


of the British right flank during the early part of General 
AUenby's offensive. So long as the Turkish Fourth Army 
remained intact Major-General Chaytor could do little 
more than demonstrate, but as soon as withdrawal began, 
as a consequence of the Turkish disaster west of the river, 
his force was in a position to harass the retreating troops 
and, of particular importance, to capture the crossing at 
Jisr ed Damiye and so close a main way of escape for Turks 
fleeing from the area west of the Jordan. The task allotted 
to the Arab army was to contain the Turkish Fourth Army 
until such time as Chaytor's Force had driven the enemy 
out of 'Amman, and subsequently to cut the Turkish way 
of retreat. 

Liman von Sanders, after he had been put to flight from 
Nazareth on the morning of the 20th, had made his way to 
Samakh on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee and 
then, when he learned that Beisan was in British hands, 
had moved on to Der'a where he had arrived on the 21st. 
After issuing orders to the Turkish Fourth Army to 
retire to the Yarmuk valley he himself had proceeded to 

It was realized from the air reports on the 22nd of 
September that the Turks east of the Jordan were with- 
drawing and orders for the pursuit were issued at 11.35 
p.m. Contact patrol observers of No. 142 Squadron on 
the 23rd reported the British and Turkish movements. The 
Turkish camps at Shunet Nimrin were seen from the air in 
the morning to be deserted, and the place was later occupied 
by the British: by the evening Es Salt had been captured. 
The operation orders issued to the Royal Air Force 
squadrons for the 23rd had stated that aeroplanes were 
to stand by for the bombing of enemy forces in retreat in 
the Es Salt- 'Amman area. The dawn reconnaissance of 
No. I Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, on the 23rd had 
reported a column of all arms moving down the road from 
Es Salt to 'Amman and various bodies of troops making 
for 'Amman from the south-west. This news was the 
signal for concentrated bombing. It was now the turn of 
the Fourth Army to suffer as the two armies west of the 
Jordan had suffered. There were no defiles in which the 


transport could be bombed to cause a blockage, but there 
was, on the other hand, little cover. Furthermore, 'Amman 
was the central point upon which bodies of troops con- 
verged, the only gateway through which to escape, and 
'Amman, with its increasing congestion, lay wide open to 
attack from the air, as did the route and stations north- 
wards to Der'a. The bombing was begun by a formation 
of six Bristol Fighters of No. i Squadron, Australian Fly- 
ing Corps, which attacked the columns on the Es Salt- 
'Amman road: each Bristol Fighter dropped six 20-lb. 
bombs and the pilot and observer fired all their machine- 
gun ammunition into the terrified Turks. Throughout the 
rest of the day this squadron concentrated its attacks on 
'Amman and its neighbourhood. In the morning seven 
D.H.9's of No. 144 Squadron, each carrying one 112-lb. 
and eight 20-lb. bombs, attacked Mafraq station, in accor- 
dance with the arrangements made to help the Arabs, and 
three D.H.9's attacked Der'a. In the afternoon the D.H.9's 
turned their attention to the streaming columns on the 
Es Salt- 'Amman road, as did the S.E.5 pilots of No. ill 
Squadron. Nineteen such attacks are recorded in the 
records of this squadron and there were many hits on 
troops, with panic all along the route. An impressive raid 
was also made by No. 113 Squadron under the leader- 
ship of the squadron commander. This squadron had little 
corps work to do, owing to the disappearance of the Turks 
on its front, and it was able to send its full strength of 
eighteeen R.E.S's on the 23rd to bomb the Es Salt- 'Amman 
columns. Two old R.E.S's could not climb high enough 
to surmount the hills, but sixteen got through and dropped 
a hundred and twenty- two 20-lb. bombs with devastating 
effect. About 10 p.m. the Handley Page dropped sixteen 
Ii2-lb. and ten 15-lb. incendiary bombs in Der'a railway 
station. In all, during the day, 6J tons of bombs were 
dropped and more than 33,000 rounds of ammunition were 
fired, almost exclusively in the area east of the Jordan. 

There was a lull in the air attacks on the 24th, and, on 
the ground, Chaytor's Force was mainly engaged with 
overcoming the supply difficulties caused by damage done 
to the roads by explosives laid by the Turks. Next day, 

I9I8] SUCCESS 233 

the 25th, the intensive bombing was resumed. The main 
target was a mixed column at Mafraq station which was 
first reported by the dawn reconnaissance. Twenty-three 
flights were made during the day by pilots of No. i Squad- 
ron, Australian Flying Corps, and sixteen by pilots of 
No. 144 D.H.9 Squadron, and a total weight of 3I tons 
of bombs were dropped and 19,000 rounds fired. The 
material damage inflicted was great, and many explosions 
occurred in Mafraq station. 

On the 25th the British mounted troops had advanced 
early on 'Amman. An air observer over the town co- 
operating with the attacking troops reported by message 
dropped at 10.40 a.m. that 'Amman was being evacuated. 
This information was true, but the Turks held a series of 
strong posts covering the railway station, in which they 
put up a stout resistance with the object, no doubt, of 
protecting the arrival of the evacuating trains of the 
Turkish troops from the direction of Ma 'an. In this they 
were unsuccessful. At 2 p.m. the defence was overcome 
and 'Amman was captured with about 2,500 prisoners. 
Major-General Chaytor's task now was not to pursue the 
Turks escaping from 'Amman, but to bar the road to the 
troops from Ma'an.^ 

Air reports showed that these were moving along the 
railway. In order to hold them up, the line was cut north 
of Ziza and the 5th Australian Light Horse Regiment was 
stationed to watch the gap. Early on the 28th the Austra- 
lians reported that the Turks were in Ziza station with 
three trains, and the report was passed to General Head- 
quarters with a request that a message should be dropped 
by aeroplane to inform the Turkish commander that all 
water which he could reach was in British hands, and that, 
if he did not surrender, his troops would be bombed from 
the air on the following day. The message was duly dropped 

^ Air reconnaissances by 'X' Flight from Gueira had reported Ma'an 
being evacuated by the Turks on the 22nd of September with the Arab 
troops advancing into the town. 'X' Flight, including the detachment 
which had operated from Azraq, now began to pack up. It left Gueira for 
*Aqaba on the 26th of September, and, early in October, went to Suez 
where the Flight was disbanded. 


on the 28th and, next morning, at 10.30 a.m., a trolley, 
flying a white flag, moved up the line with a message that 
the Turks would surrender, but asked for protection from 
the hordes of mounted Bedouin who stood against the sky- 
line ready to fall upon the Turks for loot, particularly of 
arms and ammunition. 

The Turkish commander had delayed sending the news of 
his intention to surrender and it was doubtful whether there 
was time to prevent the Royal Air Force from making its 
concentrated bombing attacks. Lieutenant-Colonel D. C. 
Cameron, the Australian officer commanding the British 
regiment in touch with the Turks, therefore sent into the 
Turkish lines the sign which, when displayed on the ground, 
would indicate the position of his own regimental head- 
quarters to any British air observer who saw it. The sign 
was laid out behind the Turkish trenches to convey the im- 
pression to the Royal Air Force bombers, if they appeared, 
that he had transferred his head-quarters to the Turkish 
lines. As it happened, the precaution proved unnecessary 
because the message cancelling the bombing attack was 
received in time to stop the aeroplanes from starting. 

Under instructions given to them by Major-General 
Chaytor the Turks stood to arms throughout the night, 
with Australian troopers at their side, and they resisted a 
number of attempts made by the loot-seeking Bedouin to 
rush the corner of the position where the trains and hos- 
pitals were situated. When the sun came up on the 30th 
the Bedouin, who would not face machine-gun fire, were 
no longer to be feared, and the full surrender of the Turks 
was accepted. 

The total captures of Chaytor's Force for the period of 
the operations were 10,322 prisoners, 57 guns, 132 machine- 
guns, rolling stock, and stores. The figures might have 
been a little higher because patrols of the ist Australian 
Light Horse Brigade which had ridden out to Mafraq on 
the 27th had reported several trains in the station filled 
with sick and wounded and stores of ammunition. When 
it became possible to run a motor engine with a few trucks 
to Mafraq with the object of putting the place in order it 
was found that the sick and the wounded had died or had 

Theatre oF Operations in TRANS -JORDAN. 

(First Trans-Jordan Raid, 21?^ March -2''^ April; Second 
Trans-Jordan Raid, 30^^ April - i^iJ May; & Operations of 
Chaytor's Force 20^^-29^1? September, 1918 .). 
Scale of Miles. 


been killed hy the Arabs who had also carried away every- 
thing portable. 

Meanwhile on the 26th of September Sir Edmund 
Allenby had issued orders for a general advance by the 
Desert Mounted Corps to Damascus, and by the XXI 
Corps to Beirut. The cavalry was to start immediately, 
two divisions (Australian Mounted and 5 th Cavalry) moving 
west of the Sea of Galilee direct, and the other (4th Cavalry) 
by way of Der^a in order to co-operate with the Arab forces 
which were in pursuit of the demoralized remnants of the 
Turkish Fourth Army. On the 27th of September, the day 
after the 4th Cavalry Division had set out to help them, the 
Arabs placed themselves astride the Turkish line of retreat 
at Sheikh Sa'd, seventeen miles north of Der'a, and in the 
terrible fighting which followed settlement was enacted 
for many accounts of long standing. On the 28th the 4th 
Cavalry Division joined hands with the Arabs near Er 
Remta and the combined advance on Damascus proceeded. 

On the 26th, the day the move on Damascus had begun, 
there were about 45,000 Turks and Germans in the city 
or in retreat towards it, and although they were dis- 
organized they could have been given, if the requisite time 
had been allowed, a measure of fighting cohesion. So 
rapid, however, was the pursuit that 20,000 of the enemy 
troops making for the safety of Damascus were overtaken 
and killed or captured before they could reach the city. 
Damascus was entered by the Arab Army and by the 
Desert Mounted Corps on the morning of the ist of 
October, and all that then remained of the Turkish Pales- 
tine armies was a rabble of about 17,000 men in flight 
towards the north. Beirut was reached by the 7th (Meerut) 
Division, which had marched by way of Tyre and Sidon, 
on the 8th of October. 

While these rapid movements in pursuit of the Turkish 
remnants were being made the Royal Air Force had con- 
tinued to play a part, although with diminishing oppor- 
tunities. For co-operation with the XXI Corps in its 
advance on Beirut a Flight of No. 113 Squadron had 
moved from El 'Affule at the end of September to Haifa, 


where one Flight from No. i Austrahan Squadron and 
another from No. 144 Squadron were also stationed. 
Damascus was reconnoitred from the air on the 27th of 
September and, next day, a forward landing-ground was 
opened at Quneitra, immediately after the Australian 
Mounted Division had reached that place. From Quneitra, 
on the 28th, the enemy aerodrome at Damascus was 
bombed, and air reconnaissances next day reported that 
the aerodrome buildings had been gutted by fire. Petrol 
and oil for the Quneitra landing-ground were carried from 
El 'Affule by air. It was not long before the supplies at El 
'Affule became exhausted, and because road transport was 
subject to considerable delays Nos. 14 and 113 Squadrons 
were organized as a temporary supply service on the 30th 
of September, on which day the squadrons carried 928 
gallons of petrol and 156 gallons of oil from Junction 
station aerodrome and from Sarona to 'Affule. On the 
morning of the ist of October, following close upon the 
heels of the Arabs and of the cavalry. Royal Air Force 
aeroplanes landed at Damascus. 

With the fall of Damascus, General Allenby decided to 
advance to the line Riyaq-Beirut. The Desert Mounted 
Corps moved on Riyaq on the 5th of October and, finding 
no opposition, occupied the place next day. On the aero- 
drome at Riyaq were discovered the remains of thirty 
aeroplanes recently burned by the enemy. One Flight of 
No. I Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, kept specially 
mobile for co-operation with the cavalry, had moved from 
Haifa on the 4th of October to Damascus and, as soon as 
Riyaq had been entered, made use of the former enemy 
aerodrome there as an advanced landing-ground. 

An important feature of the air work in the final phases 
of the operations was the distribution of maps to the 
Desert Mounted Corps and to the XXI Corps. The air 
observers also dropped many messages to tell of the con- 
dition of the roads ahead of the advancing troops, and of 
the whereabouts of the retreating Turks. There were 
many bombing attacks by the squadrons of the Fortieth 
Army Wing. 

On October the 9th General Allenby ordered the Desert 


Mounted Corps to occupy Horns and the XXI Corps to 
continue its march along the coast to TripoH. The ground 
to be covered by the new advance had been carefully 
reconnoitred from the air, and the general topography of 
the country and the state of the roads had formed the 
subject of many air reports: very little enemy movement 
had been seen. The station at Homs was bombed on the 
9th, loth, and 12th of October by aeroplanes from Haifa 
aerodrome, the pilots landing at Damascus on the way to 
replenish with fuel. On the 13th of October the XXI 
Corps reached Tripoli, and two days later the cavalry 
occupied Homs. General AUenby thereupon decided to 
send the 5th Cavalry Division and armoured cars forward 
in co-operation with the Arab army in a spectacular dash 
to capture Aleppo, some three hundred miles distant from 
the line along which the operations had originally opened. 

The advance to Aleppo began on the 20th of October . The 
indications were that the town was occupied by about 20,000 
Turks and Germans, but a majority of them were troops 
of the lines of communication, and the estimate was that 
no more than 8,000 were combatant soldiers and that these 
were more or less demoralized. On the 19th of October, 
before the advance began, two pilots of No. i Squadron, 
Australian Flying Corps, were flying about twenty-five 
miles south-west of Aleppo when they encountered an 
enemy two-seater aeroplane at 18,000 feet, the first which 
had been seen for many days. They attacked and forced 
the enemy to make a landing. Captain Smith, one of the 
Australian pilots, landed his Bristol Fighter nearby, and as 
he taxied towards the enemy aeroplane the German pilot 
and his observer jumped to the ground and stood with 
their hands above their heads. When the British aeroplane 
came alongside Captain Smith's observer fired Very lights 
into the German two-seater and set it on fire, and the 
Bristol Fighter then took to the air again leaving the two 
Germans standing because the ground was soft and if they 
had been taken on board there was small likelihood that 
the Bristol Fighter, overloaded, could have been made to 

The station and the aerodrome at Aleppo were bombed 


and also attacked with machine-gun fire from the air on 
the 23rd of October.^ On the same day one of the Austra- 
lian Bristol Fighters found two enemy two-seaters over 
the aerodrome at Babannit, north of Aleppo. The British 
pilot promptly attacked and the enemy aeroplanes went 
down and landed alongside four others on the aerodrome : 
the Bristol Fighter, from a height of 200 feet, dropped 
bombs among the enemy two-seaters and also poured 
machine-gun fire into them. 

On the evening of the 25th of October a detachment of 
the Arab Army entered Aleppo where they inflicted severe 
casualties upon the enemy troops still in the town. Early 
next morning armoured cars and a cavalry Brigade, moving 
forward on the west side of the town, gained touch with 
columns retreating from Aleppo along the road to Qatma, 
but the British detachment was not strong enough to 
round up the enemy and so complete the victory. 

At noon on the 31st of October an armistice put an end 
to the hostilities. Between the 19th of September and the 
26th of October, as a result of the most spectacular cam- 
paign of the war, the three Turkish Armies on the Pales- 
tine front had been annihilated: they had left in British 
hands almost their whole equipment together with 75,000 
prisoners and 360 guns. 

^ The Mobile Flight of No. i Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, 
moved forward with the advance to aerodromes at Horns and Hama. 


[Maps, pp. 249, 264] 

In the middle of March 1918 Lieutenant-General Sir 
W. R. Marshall received a telegram from the Chief of the 
Imperial General Staff in which the situation in the Near 
East was summarized in the light of the collapse of Russia 
and of Romania. One of the aims of Germany, it was said, 
had been to obtain control of central Europe and of the 
Near East with the object of expanding eastwards. British 
military successes, especially in Mesopotamia, had placed 
a barrier across the obvious route, by way of the Berlin- 
Baghdad railway, but the turmoil in Russia gave Germany 
an opportunity, of which she was undoubtedly hoping to 
take advantage, to establish a new route to the East by 
the Black Sea, the Caucasus, and the Caspian. 

There were various reasons why this alternative scheme 
should be opposed, among them the immediately impor- 
tant one that if Germany was left free to penetrate into 
Persia the flank of the armies in Mesopotamia would be 
turned, and the whole situation in that country, as well 
as in India, consequently endangered. It was desirable, 
therefore, that Lieutenant-General Marshall should 'ex- 
'tend from Baghdad to the Caspian and build up local 
^organizations on a foundation of military strength, work- 
'ing forward into the Caucasus in order to win over 
'Armenia and make our influence predominate in the 
'eastern ports of the Black Sea'.^ 

A few days after the dispatch of this telegram the Ger- 
man offensive was opened in France, and when the magni- 
tude of the enemy effort was revealed it became necessary 
to reconsider British policy in the Near East. On the 28th 
of March Lieutenant-General Marshall was informed by 
the Chief of the Imperial General Staff that the role of the 
British army in Palestine would be changed from offence 
to active defence, but that it was hoped to build up a 

^ See the Mesopotamia Campaign, hj Brigadier-General F. J. Moberly, 
Vol. IV, p. 138. 


general reserve for the East in Palestine. Meanwhile there 
would be no reduction of the force in Mesopotamia, which 
appeared to be strong enough to secure the positions on 
the Persian frontier as soon as the passes could be opened. 

Throughout April 1 9 1 8 Mesopotamia was swept by heavy 
gales, and many communications were broken. The bad 
weather temporarily closed the way to Hamadan and so 
made it difficult to take steps to counter the threat result- 
ing from the enemy movements towards the Caucasus and 
Persia. Furthermore, the Qasr-i-Shirin-Hamadan route 
had, by gold and propaganda, been made insecure. Using 
Kifri as a centre, German and Turkish agents had created 
unrest, and implanted hostility to the British, among 
some of the tribes in the area of the road. To make the way 
safe to Hamadan, Lieutenant-General Marshall decided to 
drive the Turks from the Tuz Khurmatli-Kifri-Qara Tepe 
area and to occupy the two first-named places. 

When the plans were nearing completion, an oppor- 
tunity was offered for a subsidiary operation which would 
help the main object. The Sinjabis, one of the tribes 
which had succumbed to enemy influence in the country 
north-east of Qasr-i-Shirin, became involved in a quarrel 
with the Kalhur and Quran tribes who were friendly to the 
British. On the advice of the local political officer, Lieu- 
tenant-General Marshall sent a small mixed column to 
assist the friendly tribesmen. Aeroplanes of No. 72 Squad- 
ron took part. On the 23rd of April reconnaissances were 
made of the Sinjabi country, and the camps which were 
discovered were attacked next day with machine-gun fire 
by two pilots who flew low. On the 25th a brief action 
took place which was successful, the morale of the tribes- 
men being shattered by four aeroplanes which performed 
aerobatics close above them and poured machine-gun fire 
into their ranks. As a result of the swift and decisive 
defeat of the Sinjabis, German influence among the tribes 
along the Persian border became of small account. 

Orders for the operations to drive the Turks from the 
the Tuz Khurmatli-Qara Tepe area had been issued on 
the 1 2th of April. The plan was to simulate a converging 
attack upon Qara Tepe and Kifri, but to strike in reality 


at Abu Gharaib and Tuz Khurmatli in order to cut off 
the enemy forces south-east and east of those places. To 
make the plan effective, four columns, A, B, C, and D, 
were organized, with six reconnaissance aeroplanes (R.E.S's) 
of No. 30 Squadron attached to Column A, six of the same 
type from Nos. 30 and 63 Squadrons to Column B, three 
from No. 30 Squadron to Column C, and three from No. 
63 Squadron to Column D. In addition, a Flight from 
each of the two squadrons, and a third Flight from No. 
72 Squadron, were ordered to be in readiness to assist 
as required in the work of co-operation with the main 
Column, B. 

The preliminary movements were delayed by rain, but 
by the early morning of the 25th of April the columns 
had reached their centres of concentration. The aero- 
planes, meanwhile, unimpeded by enemy aircraft, had been 
employed to survey the area across which the columns 
were to advance, and to report in particular about the 
suitability of the roads and rivers for the passage of the 
various arms. 

To deceive the enemy about the British intentions, 
a kite balloon section. No. 52, was moved to Mirjana 
on the Diyala river on the 17th of April, and was used 
for observation in that area, to convey an impression 
that operations were pending from Qizil Ribat. With the 
same object of mystification bombing attacks were twice 
made on the 21st of April by No. 63 Squadron on camps 
and a dump near the Fat-ha gorge on the Tigris. A 
German reconnaissance aeroplane which flew down the 
Tigris, possibly to ascertain what the bombing activity 
portended, was destroyed north of Samarra by an S.E.5 
pilot of No. 72 Squadron. The various measures taken 
to deceive the Turks succeeded and the attack came as a 

It appeared on the morning of the 26th, however, when 
the British columns began to advance, that the enemy had 
received warning and had taken fright, for an air observer 
said he had seen movements which appeared to indicate a 
withdrawal from Qara Tepe towards Kifri. Other observers 
who were sent out during the remainder of the day with 

2504.6 R 


orders to keep a special watch for further signs of a with- 
drawal, returned with reports which made it clear that the 
Turks were not going back. No more than a few scattered 
parties were seen on the Qara Tepe-Kifri road, and these 
were attacked with 25 -lb. bombs and with machine-gun 

Column D, on the British left, had instructions to 
demonstrate against Abu Gharaib in order to induce the 
Turkish garrison to occupy its positions on the Jabal Ham- 
rin where it could be surprised and destroyed by a part of 
B Column (B i) on the 27th. Column C, which was not 
to advance from the Diyala until the 26th, was to close on 
Qara Tepe on the 27th and pin the garrison to its ground 
while the remainder of B Column (B 2) placed itself in a 
position to cut the line of withdrawal of the garrison. 

Although the air reports on the 26th nourished a hope 
that the British plans would be duly fulfilled, a belated 
decision of the Turks changed the prospects. That decision 
was to take no chances, and in torrential rain during the 
night of the 26th/27th the Qara Tepe garrison withdrew 
hurriedly towards Kifri, and the Abu Gharaib force 
towards Tuz Khurmatli. 

Soon after dawn on the 27th the Turkish troops who 
had abandoned the Abu Gharaib position were discovered 
from the air moving towards Kulawand, and they were 
subjected to air attacks in which the Bristol monoplanes of 
No. 72 Squadron played their first part in the action. 
These aeroplanes could carry enough petrol to keep them 
in the air only for one and three-quarter hours, and were 
not therefore suitable for reconnaissance work, but they 
were capable of rapid manoeuvre and their pilots, by swift 
diving attacks from low heights, brought terror to the 
disheartened and war-weary Turkish soldiers. 

An important body of the enemy troops was seen to 
take up a defensive position at Kulawand, and the informa- 
tion was conveyed to the general officer commanding 
Column A by a pilot who landed at his head-quarters at 
9.30 a.m. Orders were at once issued for an enveloping 
attack, but difficulties subsequently arose because the enemy 
entrenchments, constructed more than a year before by 


German engineers, had become so overgrown with grass 
that it was impossible for the observers, no matter how low 
they flew, to see to what extent the trenches were occupied, 
or to say whether they were guarded by wire entangle- 
ments, an obstacle which would effectively stop the advance 
of the cavalry. In consequence the attackers had to feel 
their way and it was not until about 12.30 p.m. that they 
were ready to assault. As the cavalry started forward the 
aeroplanes flew over the Turks, attacking them with bomb 
and machine-gun. When the horses broke into a charge, 
overriding many Turkish soldiers who had left their 
trenches to hold a dry water-course, success came quickly. 
Numbers of the enemy, taking advantage of the tangled 
nature of the country, escaped into the hills to the north, 
but about 200 lay dead, and 565 were taken prisoners. 

After the place had been captured, the cavalry and light 
armoured cars of Column A reconnoitred towards Tuz 
Khurm.atli and the Aq Su watercourse, where they found 
the Turkish garrisons alert in prepared positions. The 
reconnaissance party withdrew to join Column B south 
of Kulawand, and the two columns (A, B i and B 2) 
were then placed under the orders of Major-General Sir 
W. de S. Cayley for operations against the Tuz Khurmatli 

On the 28th, while the preliminary movements for the 
new attack were taking place, the enemy positions were 
reconnoitred from the air and by the cavalry, and many 
attacks were made by pilots on the Turkish troops and 
batteries. Major-General Cayley learned from his recon- 
naissance reports that enemy artillery was in position near 
Yanija Buyuk and north-east of Tuz Khurmatli, and that 
the crossing over the Aq Su, south of Tuz Khurmatli, was 
guarded by infantry and machine-gunners entrenched on 
the right bank of the watercourse. As soon as he was fully 
apprised of the general situation he issued his orders for the 
attack to be made next day, the 29th of April. Not long 
after his orders had gone out a hostile aeroplane appeared 
over Kifri, which had been occupied in the morning with- 
out opposition by Column C. This was the first appear- 
ance of an enemy pilot since the operations had begun. 


The British attack, which started at daybreak on the 
29th, was made with dash and was met with an unex- 
pectedly stubborn resistance, but hy 9 a.m. Tuz had been 
occupied and the major part of the Turkish defending 
force captured. More than 200 Turkish dead were buried 
by the attackers, and 1,300 prisoners, 12 guns, 20 machine- 
guns, and much ammunition were secured. Those who 
escaped in disorder along the road to Tauq were pursued 
and attacked by cavalry and by aeroplanes. 

Observers who flew over the Turkish area early on the 
30th of April reported that the enemy troops had with- 
drawn from Tauq and were retiring on Kirkuk. Lieutenant- 
General Marshall had not intended to go beyond Tuz 
Khurmatli, but the War Office had telegraphed on the 
previous day to say that it was certain that the Turks, 
who would shortly dominate Trans-Caucasia, intended 
to occupy Persian Azerbaijan, and that German agents, 
working with the connivance of members of the Persian 
Government, had made arrangements for a general rising 
against the British as soon as Turkish troops appeared in 
Persia. It was clear that Lieutenant-General Marshall 
could not maintain a sufficient force for an effective 
diversion to counter the Turks in Persia, and it was 
suggested that his best plan v/ould be to strike at once 
in the direction of Kirkuk-Sulaimaniya in order to force 
the Turkish XIII Corps to call for reinforcements from 
the troops allotted to the Persian adventure. 

Lieutenant-General Marshall accordingly planned the 
capture of Kirkuk, but he pointed out, in a reasoned 
telegram in reply, the maintenance, climatic, and other 
difficulties which would make it unprofitable for him to 
establish a hold so far forward from his bases. 

Before the advance to Kirkuk could be undertaken, a 
reorganization of the force was necessary. On the 2nd of 
May 'C Flight of No. 30 Squadron moved forward, with 
foar R.E.8 aeroplanes, to Tuz Khurmatli, and four Bristol 
monoplanes of No. 72 Squadron moved in company in 
order to provide fighting escorts, as it was clear that some 
reinforcing Albatros aeroplanes had reached the German 
air service. The Flight of No. 63 Squadron, which had 


taken part in the forward movement to Tuz Khurmatli, 
was sent back from Baquba, at the same time, to rejoin its 
squadron on the Tigris at Samarra. 

There was a possible element of danger which had to be 
guarded against. It will be clear from a reference to the 
map that the Turkish XVIII Corps, holding the Fat-ha 
position on the Tigris, constituted a threat, from the flank, 
to the impending advance to Kirkuk. The British I 
Corps at Samarra was therefore ordered to occupy Tikrit, 
to send forward a mobile column to seize the Ain Nu- 
khaila pass across the Jabal Hamrin, due east of Fat-ha, 
and to reconnoitre towards Kirkuk. Aeroplanes of No. 63 
Squadron, specially sent out on the ist and 2nd of May, 
reported that there were no Turkish posts at Ain Nu- 
khaila, and also yielded information about the nature of 
the country and the suitability of the roads and tracks 
for military movements. 

The advance towards Kirkuk was timed to begin on the 
4th of May. Wild weather accompanied by heavy rain im- 
peded the initial movements. On the 3rd, armoured cars 
found a small Turkish force in position at Taza Khurmatli, 
and the enemy troops were seen from the air to be still 
holding their ground on the two following days, but early 
on the morning of the 6th an air observer reported that 
Taza Khurmatli had been abandoned, and the place was 
thereupon occupied by the British. The advance was 
continued until touch was gained with the enemy about 
two miles south-west of Kirkuk. During the night of the 
6th/7th of May the rain was torrential and the roads be- 
came almost impassable. Orders were sent out at 6.40 a.m. 
on the 7th to say that the operations for the day would be 
limited to defensive reconnaissances, but owing to the 
break-down in communications as a result of the rain- 
storms, the message took three and a half hours to reach 
Major-General Cayley. By that time his advanced guard, 
which had been on the move since early morning, was 
already in Kirkuk, which was entered at 8.45 a.m. and 
had been found evacuated by the enemy. Three damaged 
enemy aeroplanes, much ammunition, and about 600 sick 
and wounded Turks were taken in Kirkuk. The town 


was in a filthy condition and the inhabitants were found 
to be starving: soup kitchens had to be started for them, 
and scraps, voluntarily given hy the troops, themselves 
on half rations, were distributed. Some days later four 
German aeroplanes bombed Kirkuk and killed 26 mules 
and wounded four men. The carcasses of the mules, 
under the direction of the medical officer who was directing 
the soup kitchen, were put to use, but the inhabitants, 
perhaps a little less hungry than they had been, were not 

On the 9th of May it was reported from the air that 
there were Turkish camps near Altun Kopri, but that there 
were signs of a withdrawal in the direction of Erbil. A 
mobile column, sent forward on the loth, made contact 
with the enemy troops at Altun Kopri where an explosion 
was reported at 7 p.m., at a time when the Turks were in 

Meanwhile, concurrently with the operations in the 
Kirkuk area, troops of the I Corps had occupied Tikrit and 
the Ain Nukhaila pass, while the co-operating aeroplanes 
had bombed the Turkish positions. There was evidence 
that the enemy had withdrawn some part of his force 
from the Fat-ha entrenchments, and the temptation to 
attack this position was inviting, but it was not Lieutenant- 
General Marshall's intention to undertake further com- 
mitments and the forward troops of the I Corps began a 
steady withdrawal in the middle of May, and, by the end 
of the month, were back again in their positions about 
Samarra. At the same time the withdrawal from Kirkuk 
had also been completed. This withdrawal, which was 
made against the advice of the civil commissioner, was 
necessitated by a lack of sufficient transport to maintain a 
force strong enough to ensure its own safety. 

'^ 'The Medical Officer who was running the soup kitchen thought this 
was a heaven sent opportunity of providing unlimited stock, so the car- 
casses were cut up and boiled down. That evening an unusually savoury 
broth was being issued when it leaked out that the foundation was "mule", 
and then an uproar began which it was difficult to quell. Why this should 
have been I can't say as the people being fed were mostly Armenians who 
should have had no prejudices' (Major-General Sir W. de S. Cayley, in 
a letter to the Author). 


While these movements were in progress there had been 
an exchange of telegrams with the War Office about the 
future role of the force in Mesopotamia. Lieutenant- 
General Marshall had stated his conviction that he could 
go forward and capture Mosul, and clear the country 
between the Tigris and the Persian border of Turkish con- 
trol, but if he did his railhead would be much closer to the 
enemy railhead at Nisibin, and his force, moreover, would 
have no effect on the Turks in the Caucasus and at Tabriz, 
who could be supplied from the Black Sea. He had urged 
that, because of the heat of the summer, no operations 
should be undertaken before the middle of September. 
The War Office had agreed to this postponement and had 
stated that, in the meantime, Major-General L. C. Duns- 
terville's operations should be supported to the maximum 
strength of the transport available. On the 21st of May, in 
a further telegram, the War Office had said that the latest 
information from Tehran indicated that a prompt display 
of military strength in Persia would lead to the Persian 
Government according the British active support, and 
Lieutenant-General Marshall was therefore urged to main- 
tain at Hamadan, and towards the Caspian, a force up to 
a cavalry regiment, an infantry brigade, armoured cars, 
and aeroplanes. It was important that a British force, no 
matter how small, should reach the Caspian during the 

At the end of May the units of the Thirty-first Wing of 
the Royal Air Force, under the Command of Lieutenant- 
Colonel R. A. Bradley, were disposed as follows : 
No. 30 Squadron (less ij Flights) (Major J. Everidge). . Baquba 

Half- Flight of No. 30 Kifri 

'B' Flight of No. 30 Ramadi 

No. 63 Squadron (Major F. L. Robinson) . . . Samarra 
No. 72 Squadron Head-quarters and half-Flight (Major 

O.T.Boyd) Baghdad 

Half- Flight of No. 72 Hamadan 

'A' Flight of No. 72 Samarra 

'C Flight of No. 72 Mirjana 

No. 23 Kite Balloon Company Head-quarters . , Baghdad 

No. 51 Kite Balloon Section Samarra 

No. 52 Kite Balloon Section Ramadi 

Aircraft Park Baghdad 


With the cessation of major active operations in Meso- 
potamia during the hot summer months, the work of the 
Royal Air Force squadrons, except the detachments en- 
gaged with the 'Dunsterforce', consisted mainly of classes 
of instruction and practice co-operation with artillery, in- 
fantry, and cavalry, in preparation for the autumn cam- 
paign. A programme of photographic work, covering 
hundreds of square miles of territory, was also systemati- 
cally fulfilled for the map compilation section. 

Persia and the Caspian Sea 
[Map, p. 249] 

It had been possible to open the road to Hamadan at 
the end of May, and troops were sent forward in Ford 
vans to Kazvin, covering Tehran, where they took over 
from Lieutenant-Colonel Bicharakoff's Partisan detach- 
ment which represented the rear-guard of the Russian 
troops in process of evacuating Persia. 'B' Flight of No. 
72 Squadron, equipped with Martinsyde aeroplanes, was 
transferred to Kazvin from Baghdad. 

It will not be possible to set out here the complex poli- 
tical and military situation in Persia and Trans-Caucasia: 
it may be read in the official military history of the cam- 
paign in Mesopotamia. The fighting on the Persian plateau 
and in the mountain passes, and along the ridges overlook- 
ing the waters of the Caspian, had little cohesion. It is a 
story of British detachments standing side by side with 
Russians, Armenians, Assyrians, and Persians, sometimes 
uncertain about the temper and reliability of their Allies, 
conscious that their long line of communications was pre- 
carious, waging a tenacious fight against odds. From the 
railhead in Mesopotamia to the Caspian Sea the road along 
which all supplies had to move meandered through rocky 
passes and across mountain streams for some 700 miles. 
West of Hamadan the road was not metalled, and when 
the British first went forward to Kazvin many of the 
bridges were broken and much of the country in the area 
of the road was stricken by famine. 

On the 8th of June, after he had completed the hand- 


ing over of Kazvin to the care of the British, Lieutenant- 
Colonel Bicharakoff marched out with his Russians, about 
1,000 strong, for Enzeli with the object of taking ship for 
Baku where he had reason to believe the inhabitants would 
welcome his help in the defence of the town against 
expected Turkish attacks. The main interest of the British 
in Baku was in the oil supplies which it was desirable should 
not be made available to the enemy. As Major-General 
Dunsterville says: 'The capture of Baku by the enemy 
'would give him ample stocks of oil for the running of the 
'Caucasian railway lines and the Black Sea shipping (the 
'oil is pumped in pipes from Baku to Batoum), and it would 
'mean the control by him of the Caspian Sea, with all the 
'valuable supplies obtainable from the various ports on its 
'shores, and an open door to Asia and Afghanistan. Any 
'enemy scheme of penetration into Asia through Turkestan 
'would be greatly facilitated by the large numbers of 
'released Austrian prisoners set at liberty in that country 
'by the revolutionaries, and now wandering about ready to 
'undertake any task that would procure them their daily 

A small British detachment, including a squadron of the 
14th Hussars, and two armoured cars, accompanied the 
Russians. It was known that the Jangalis, under their 
leader Kuchik Khan and with German officers in their 
force, held entrenched positions guarding the bridge at 
Manjil. Attempts had been made to come to an agree- 
ment with Kuchik Khan to open the road to Enzeli and to 
give a guarantee that he would not interfere with the move- 
ments of British toops or convoys on the road. Nothing 
satisfactory had resulted, but it was considered possible 
that the Jangalis might yield at the last moment without 
fighting. All was ready for the attack on Manjil on the 
nth of June, but it was arranged that two aeroplanes from 
Kazvin should first fly over the Jangalis positions. The 
presence of aircraft, it was thought, might help the tribes- 
men to a reasonable frame of mind, and the pilots were 
instructed to show themselves only, and not to open fire 

^ The Adventures of Dunsterforce, by Major-General L. C. Dunsterville, 
C.B., C.S.I., pp. 140-1. 


unless they were attacked. When the aeroplanes came 
above the positions the Jangalis soon made their intentions 
clear. Widespread rifle fire was directed against the air- 
craft to begin the action of Manjil bridge. The pilots 
reported the details of the enemy positions. 

Not long after the Russian and British troops had opened 
fire the Jangalis were overcome hy panic, and victory was 
easily achieved. The Russians subsequently pushed for- 
ward to Enzeli while the British placed detachments at 
strategic points along the road to keep the route to Enzeli 

The Jangalis derived a feeling of security from the well- 
wooded nature of their country, and they made a habit 
of finding points of vantage overlooking the way to Enzeli 
and of sniping at the convoys which moved along the road. 
In an attempt to put an end to this nuisance two Martin- 
sydes made a bombing attack, on the 2ist of June, on the 
barracks of the Jangalis at Kasma, where Kuchik Khan 
had his head-quarters, and it was afterwards known that 
seventy-seven of the tribesmen were killed or wounded. 
Similar attacks, with bomb and machine-gun, were made 
subsequently, from time to time, and they went some way 
to keep the Jangalis in check; in particular, the attacks 
made it easier for the small British detachment in Resht 
to maintain its position. In the words of Major-General 
Dunsterville : 'The situation of this detachment would 
'have been precarious but for the aeroplanes, which pro- 
'duced a great effect by bombing and machine-gunning 
'any concentration of the enemy; but this task was also 
'rendered difficult by the density of the forest, which gave 
'the enemy cover from view. The casualties inflicted were 
'therefore slight, but the moral effect was great.' ^ 

By the middle of July, however, the Jangalis had been 
roused to fresh efforts. On the 20th about 2,500 of the 
tribesmen, with the help of a few Germans and Austrians, 
attacked the small British detachment at Resht. Fierce 
fighting followed, some of it taking place in the narrow 
streets of the town, but the Jangalis were heavily defeated. 
'The operations during the next two days consisted of 
^ The Adventures of Dunsterjorce, p. 165. 


'getting the Jangalis out of the town. This involved a good 
'deal of street-fighting, but success was mainly achieved hy 
'aeroplane bombing, which soon rendered their retention 
'of the various hotels and public buildings impracticable.' ^ 
The aeroplanes which were responsible for the bombing of 
Resht were two of No. 72 Squadron. 

To make air attacks on the Jangalis easier, and as a 
further step towards consolidating control of the port it- 
self, an air base was opened on the 30th of July at Enzeli 
with two aeroplanes flown from Kazvin hy pilots who 
bombed the tribesmen on the way. For ten days the aero- 
planes kept up their bombing and machine-gun attacks 
which, reinforcing the severe defeat inflicted on the Jan- 
galis at Resht, induced Kuchik Khan to open negotiations 
for peace. The Royal Air Force was requested to abstain 
from bombing while the talks were proceeding and, on the 
1st of September, an agreement was duly signed by which 
the Jangalis undertook to give no further assistance to the 

The Christians of Urmia 
[Map, p. 249] 

In the town and district of Urmia, lying west of the 
lake of that name, there was a population of some 80,000 
people, most of them Christians of the Armenian or Assy- 
rian churches: the Assyrians had the tribal name of Jelus. 
The district had been surrounded for a year by two weak 
Turkish divisions, against which the Christians of Urmia 
had fought with stubborn ingenuity. They had, however, 
expended largely of their resources and they had sent a 
message to the British asking for arms, ammunition, and 
money. To help them in their fight against the Turks 
it was considered desirable to give the Jelus what they 
asked, but a difliculty was that Turkish troops at Sauj 
Bulag, south of Lake Urmia, barred the way. It was 
decided to send an aeroplane to Urmia with a message 
saying that a convoy of arms and ammunition would be 
sent, and instructing the Jelus to fight their way through 
the Turkish cordon to meet the convoy on a fixed date at 

^ The Adventures oj Dunsterjorce^ p. 204. 


Sain Kala. Lieutenant K. M. Pennington, with the Kazvin 
detachment of No. 72 Squadron, volunteered to make the 
flight, and fuel was provided for him on a roughly prepared 
forward landing-ground at Mianeh, where a British post 
had been stationed for some time. When Lieutenant Pen- 
nington set out from Mianeh on the 8th of July there were 
rumours that Urmia had been captured by the Turks. As 
soon as he arrived over the town he became aware that his 
appearance was stirring the inhabitants to great excite- 
ment, and he was subjected to desultory rifle fire. He flew 
low for some time, but found it impossible to decide 
whether the town was in the hands of the Turks or not. 
The rifle fire, he thought, might be explained by the fact 
that the Jelus were uncertain about his identity and inten- 
tions. When he flew over the building of the American 
Mission and his wave of the hand was vigorously answered 
he decided to take a chance and land, which he did with 
some difficulty. When the inhabitants learned that the 
pilot was British he was joyously received, and after de- 
livering his despatches he made a safe return to Mianeh. 

The British ammunition convoy reached Sain Kala 
as arranged on the 23rd of July, but the Jelus had been 
delayed and they did not arrive to take the ammunition 
over until after ten days had passed. By that time the 
Turks had entered Urmia where they massacred many 
Assyrians, and they pursued those who fled along the road to 
Sain Kala until checked by the British troops. The stream 
of Assyrian refugees continued to pour along the road to 
Bijar until eventually some 50,000 had assembled at the 
latter place. They were gradually evacuated by way of 
Hamadan to refugee encampments provided by the British 
at Baquba. 

The Caspian 

[Map, p. 249] 
Meanwhile, Colonel Bicharakoff had, on the 3rd of July, 
sailed from Enzeli for Alyat, thirty-five miles south-west 
of Baku. This Russian oflB.cer had decided to join the 
Bolshevik revolutionaries because he believed there was 
no other way by which he could obtain a footing in the 

i9i8] AT BAKU 253 

Caucasus. He was, at first, well received, and he accepted 
the post of commander-in-chief of the so-called Red 
Army of the Caucasus. He was not anxious, however, 
to take his own detachment to Baku direct because he 
would there be too much at the mercy of the Bolsheviks, 
who might, he thought, turn against him at any time. 
That was why he chose Alyat which would give him 
some independence and would not prevent him from co- 
operating with the section of the Red Army which was 
actually in the field. Bicharakoff moved forward to take 
command of the Baku red army astride the Tiflis railway, 
but he found that the revolutionary troops were un- 
reliable. By the end of July he had been forced back into 
Baku and the Turks were in possession of the heights com- 
manding the town. 

The Bolshevik Government at Baku, which had been 
opposed to direct British intervention, had been over- 
thrown on the 26th of July, and a Centro-Caspian dictator- 
ship had been set up in its place. The new regime at once 
appealed to the British for help. Bicharakoff, however, 
convinced that the new Government would be ineffective, 
and that it was, in any event, too late to prevent the Turks 
from occupying the town, withdrew his own men and 
moved along the Caspian coast towards Derbend. For a 
time only scant and conflicting news filtered through 
from Baku, but it gradually became clear that the Turks 
had missed a certain opportunity to take effective control 
of the town. The British were anxious to respond to the 
call for help which had been made by the new authorities 
in Baku, and a small mission of officers, with an escort of 
a platoon of infantry, was sent to report upon the general 
situation. They landed at Baku on the 4th of August and, 
few as they were, had an immediate tonic effect upon the 
inhabitants who were inspired to repulse a heavy Turkish 
attack on the following day. Major-General Dunsterville 
decided to send two aeroplanes to Baku for communica- 
tion purposes and further to encourage the people of 
the town in their resistance. Two Martinsydes of No. 72 
Squadron were accordingly flown from Kazvin to Enzeli 
on the 1 8th of August, and they continued to Baku when 


it was reported that the Russians could receive them on 
the aerodrome near the town : the British aeroplanes were 
ready for operations at Baku on the 20th of August. 

As a result of the report made by the British mission, 
reinforcements were sent to Baku and they took over a 
part of the defended perimeter of the town. The British 
troops, however, found a state of affairs which was almost 
chaotic, and a feeling soon spread among the inhabitants 
that there was no longer need to bother themselves with 
defence now that British soldiers were about. On the 
26th of August the Turks made an attack, supported by 
artillery, the brunt of which was borne by a British infantry 
company which, after an epic resistance, was forced to 
withdraw. On the 31st the Turks attacked again, but they 
were resisted by British and Russian troops until the latter 
were forced to give ground through the exposure of their 
flank by the withdrawal of Armenian battalions. On the 
1st of September further ground was lost, but the Turks 
had to pay dearly for their advantage, and they were not 
again in a position to move until the 14th of September, 
following the arrival of reinforcements. In the attack on 
the 14th the Turks took possession of most of the high 
ground dominating the town, after a day during which 
both sides fought to a standstill. As the Turks had taken 
ground which placed the port and its shipping at the 
mercy of artillery fire, Lieutenant-General Marshall gave 
orders for the evacuation of the British detachment, and 
the move took place during the night of the I4th/i5th of 
September. The intervention of the few British troops 
had kept the Turks away from the Baku oil-fields for six 
weeks, and had compelled them to divert an appreciable 
force for the capture of the town. 

The two pilots who had worked with the Baku detach- 
ment were Lieutenants M. C. Mackay and R. P. P. Pope. 
They had no opposition from enemy aircraft to face, and 
they were mainly employed for reconnaissance duties, 
bombing, and for distributing propaganda reading matter. 
The report dealing with the work of the two pilots on the 
day of the evacuation of Baku, reads: 'About an hour 
'before daybreak on the 14th September, the Turks 


'attacked the Allied line west of Baku. Their main attack 
*was concentrated on Wolf's Gap — a large break in the 
'British ridge — through which ran a road. At dawn 
'Lieutenant Mackay flew over this sector of the line and 
'observed troops on the British ridge. Owing to clouds 
'and mist at 1,000 feet the identification of these troops 
'was difficult, and to avoid any mistake the pilot flew 
'farther west to the Turkish ridge where enemy reserves 
'were seen halted on the western slopes. Six drums from 
'the Lewis were fired into these troops, and a report taken 
'back to G.H.Q. as to their whereabouts. During the 
'morning Lieutenant Pope did two reconnaissances — the 
'first of thirty minutes, the second of fifty-five minutes. 
'During the first, three drums were fired on to troops 
'on the British ridge, who had now been identified as 
'Turks. Owing to the gas regulator key falling away from 
'his gun. Lieutenant Pope returned to the aerodrome, 
'but the trouble having been remedied again took off and 
'crossed the Turkish lines. Six drums were fired into 
'Turkish troops who were now half-way between the 
'old British ridge and Baku. Lieutenant Mackay crossed 
'the enemy lines shortly after this and again fired six 
'drums into the enemy reserves on the British ridge. 
'The last three flights were carried out at 1,500 feet. 
'Lieutenant Pope's machine had been unserviceable for a 
'day or so previously and owing to shortage of mechanics 
'and time required to be spent on the serviceable 
'machines, only one machine flew on the 14th of Sep- 
'tember. By 12.15 p.m. on this day the machine was 
'really unfit to fly owing to hits from rifle and machine- 
'gun fire from the ground, and at 3 p.m. orders were 
'received from the G.O.C., British troops, Baku, to destroy 
'the two machines, their flying to Krasnovodsk, Lenkoran, 
'or Enzeli being out of the question. At 3.45 p.m. the 
'machines were burnt, the engines being rendered useless 
'by revolver bullets and an axe. At 4.15 p.m. Lieutenants 
'Pope and Mackay left the aerodrome which was then 
'under shell fire, taking away with them one (top) machine- 
'gun and three cameras. The Royal Air Force personnel 
'was ordered to take one of the remaining machine-guns 


'and several drums of ammunition and join the British 
'line which was then close to the northern end of the 
'aerodrome. The third machine-gun was smashed. . . .' 
Eventually, after their spell of duty with the infantry, 
the survivors of the Royal Air Force detachment were 
transported to Enzeli, whence they were taken to the 
aerodrome at Kazvin. 

While the desperate fighting had been in progress at 
Baku, employing the bulk of the 'Dunsterforce', there had 
been cause for alarm along the lines of communications. It 
had become known that large bodies of Turkish troops 
were assembling at Tabriz and at Urmia, on either side of 
the lake of Urmia. The British troops available to guard 
this flank of the Kermanshah-Enzeli line of communica- 
tions fell far short of the numbers needed to ensure 
security. The most important of the routes, and the one 
along which it was considered probable the Turks would 
march, was the Mianeh-Kazvin road. To meet the Turkish 
threat there was a mixed British and Persian force, about 
1,100 strong, based on Mianeh, with a forward detach- 
ment forty-five miles to the north-west. A range of 
hills known as the Kuflan Kuh, astride the road south of 
Mianeh, constituted a favourable position for the British 
to fight a delaying action. Air reconnaissances of the 
Turkish positions in the whole area were made from time 
to time, and information obtained towards the end of 
August and early in September amply confirmed a belief 
that the Turks would make an advance down the main 
Mianeh-Tabriz road. On the 5th of September the 
Turkish movement began with an attack on the outpost 
line, and the enemy pressure was such that the Allied 
detachment had been forced back to the Kuflan Kuh 
positions by the loth of September. If this line fell the 
British troops between Enzeli and Kazvin would be in 
a precarious position, and their withdrawal was therefore 
ordered. There was fierce fighting in the Kuflan Kuh 
positions, but after a resistance lasting four days the British 
were compelled to make a further withdrawal, and they 
moved back to Nikhbeg on the 14th. It was on this day 

i9i8] A TRIBUTE 257 

that the British troops at Baku were evacuated to EnzeH, 
and these troops, together with reinforcements from Meso- 
potamia, eventually brought the Turkish advance to a halt 
along a strongly established defensive line at Zenjan. The 
Turks, however, had really shot their bolt. By this time 
the victory of General Allenby in Palestine and Syria had 
changed the whole situation in the Near East, and the 
Turkish threat in the Caucasus could no longer be reckoned 

During the Turkish advance reconnaissances had been 
made at high pressure by two pilots who worked from a 
landing-ground at Zenjan. The pilots also subjected the 
Turkish troops and transport to machine-gun and bomb- 
ing attacks from low heights. 

On the 17th of September Major-General W. M. 
Thomson succeeded Major-General Dunsterville in the 
command of the troops in Northern Persia, the force being 
newly designated the 'Norper force'. On the same day 
three R.E.S's of No. 30 Squadron were flown from Kifri 
to Hamadan, across 200 miles of rugged country, to rein- 
force the small detachment of No. 72 Squadron working in 
Persia. The main work of the pilots and observers from 
now onwards was reconnaissance of the Turkish positions at 
Kuflan Kuh, supplemented by attacks on the demoralized 
enemy troops and by the dropping of propaganda. It 
was essential to plan every flight with care because spare 
parts and the facilities for repair were meagre, and the 
supplies of petrol had to be husbanded. Although the 
Royal Air Force detachment was small, those military 
oflicers who were best placed to judge were enthusiastic 
about the effect the aeroplanes had upon the campaign.^ 

^ 'We were well informed of Allenby's progress and also of the Balkan 
'advance, so it was easy to prophesy that the Turks' next move in Persia 
'would be backwards not forwards. The whole of Northern Persia acces- 
'sible by aeroplane or otherwise was vigorously propaganda'ed and the 
'Turkish withdrawal was confidently foretold. As a result much of their 
'locally raised transport, drivers and animals, began to melt away and the 
'rest of it stampeded when our aeroplanes bombed them in the Shabli 
'Pass. With the rest of our widely scattered little Force unable to help, it 
'it true to say that this small detachment of R.A.F. reduced the two 
'Turkish Divisions south of Tabriz to chaos in a manner comparable with 

2S04.6 c 


An adventure which befell a pilot on the 6th of October 
is worth recording for its own interest and because of the 
light it throws upon the local conditions. Lieutenant 
T. L. Williams of No. 72 Squadron set out in a Martinsyde 
to escort an R.E.8 aeroplane on a reconnaissance flight 
along the Tabriz road. During the journey he lost sight 
of the two-seater, and while searching for it he came upon 
enemy troops in the Shabli Pass. After he had scattered 
them with his machine-gun, his engine suddenly failed and 
he was forced to land forty miles behind the Turkish lines. 
He set fire to his aeroplane and then, he says, 'fearing the 
'Turks might arrive on the scene I made off as quickly as I 
'could, leaving behind me in my hurry my water bottle, 
'which would have been invaluable. I made for the nearest 
'gap in the Buqgush Dagh, which was about six miles 
'away, in an effort to avoid the enemy in a pass which was 
'some three miles distant. Here I found myself among 
'very high and particularly steep mountains without food 
'or water, the procuring of which proved to be the greatest 
'difficulty throughout my subsequent journey. Taking my 
'direction from the sun I now walked as fast as the steep 
'inclines permitted, becoming very exhausted by mid-day. 
'I plodded along and at about 4 p.m. struck a Pass which 
'I followed until it became dark, when, whilst seeking for 
'a resting place for the night, I was hailed by a Persian to 
'whom I explained my position as best my Persian vocabu- 
'lary would allow me, promising him 1,000 Tomans if he 
'returned me safely to the British lines. Attracted by so 
'large a sum he immediately agreed and took me to his 
'house where I received some bread and water, spending 
'the night in the same room as himself and his two wives. 

'October 7th. The following morning I received visits 
'from nearly all the local inhabitants who seemed deeply 
'interested in my dress and appearance. At about mid-day 
'four rough-looking persons arrived and deprived me of the 
^following articles at the point of a revolver: 150 Krans in 
'money, my watch, flying cap and goggles, shoes, topee, 
'tunic, both collar and tie, and a few other things. The 

that of Allenby's very much larger operations in the Jordan Valley' 
(Lieutenant-General Sir William Thomson in a letter to the Author). 


'leader of these four men was a Pasha who I afterwards 
'found out had notified the Turks of my whereabouts. In 
'the meantime, I was given an old pair of Persian trousers, 
'waistcoat, jacket, cap, and slippers. I also permitted my 
'hair to be half-shaved in the approved Persian style, 
'preparatory to starting out for our own lines which I did 
'at 12 midnight with my Persian guide. Our intentions at 
'this time were to arrive at Mianeh after ten hours' march- 
'ing, to spend three hours there, and to pass through the 
'town and over the Kuflan Kuh under cover of darkness, 
'and from thence to Sarchem, where I expected to find 
'our front line. 

'October 8th. After walking hard until about twelve 
'mid-day we rested outside a small village 20 miles from 
'Mianeh where my guide left me to go and buy some food. 
'Before parting he urged me to rid myself of everything 
'English in case of capture, so I handed him my shirt, 
'shorts and stockings, leaving myself with only a thin pair 
'of old trousers, a waistcoat, a tattered jacket with hardly 
'any sleeves, a Persian cap and a rotten pair of Persian 
'slippers, through which som^e of my toes protruded. I 
'now waited a good hour for the return of my guide, but 
'his continued absence probably due to fear of being caught 
'by the Turks soon decided me to move on alone and make 
'straight for Mianeh which appeared in the distance. A 
'little later I met two Turkish cavalry men whom I pre- 
'sumed were on the look-out for me. I therefore en- 
'deavoured to avoid them by walking inland a little and 
'performing a certain duty but the ruse was unsuccessful 
'and they hailed me talking and shouting for a minute or 
'so. However, taking no notice of them I was permitted 
'to continue my journey in which I next nearly walked into 
'a Turkish camp where a patrol of about a dozen cavalry 
'men were stationed, presumably guarding the cross-roads 
'where the two rivers meet. By some promiscuous dodging 
'I successfully evaded these men and arrived outside the 
'town of Mianeh before dark. I remained in hiding in a 
'ditch until dark, and then started off along the banks of 
'the Karangu-So which runs north-east from Mianeh, thus 
'avoiding the enemy as much as possible. After some six 


'miles, having had nothing to eat all day, I was too tired 
'to go on, and lay down on the open ground to sleep, but 
'through lack of clothing I was unable to attain this object, 
'and gladly welcomed the cold day of October 9th. 

'October 9th. Proceeding along the banks of this river 
'for about another eight miles I crossed it, and struck a 
'pass which I was convinced would lead me to our lines. 
'This day was the first day's journey across the Maman 
'Kuh and Kuh Karawal, which mountains took me a total 
'of three days to cross. I started off on an empty stomach, 
'and with an unquenchable thirst, walking most of the way 
'bare-footed, since the slippers bruised my feet badly. I 
'passed a few Persians during the day, but none would give 
'me anything to eat or drink though just before dark I 
'discovered six berries which I ate one by one with the 
'greatest satisfaction. As usual I failed to get much sleep 
'or rest. 

'October loth. I started at dawn feeling very exhausted 
'and weak, my feet becoming troublesome, owing to the 
'ruggedness of the tracks. I now left the high mountains 
'and came to rolling hills by which I knew I was not far 
'distant from our lines. I was also convinced that the 
'Kuflan Kuh and the Turks were well behind me, yet the 
'journey was becoming very monotonous and tiring. During 
'the day I passed a large number of Persians whom I ques- 
'tioned as to my proper course, and from whom I tried to 
'obtain something to eat, but without success. The night 
'was spent as usual. Slowly and falteringly I continued my 
'journey and hoping my destination was not far off. I soon 
'heard the hum of an aeroplane which was a great relief. 
'I tried to hasten my pace but my feet proved too sore and 
'I trudged along at a very slow pace. About mid-day I 
'passed the walls of a big village, but did not dare to go 
'inside for food lest I should be detained there. Outside 
'the village I picked up a single grape with greedy fingers 
'and devoured it with the utmost satisfaction. Soon after 
'this I saw the Zenjan-Mianeh road. I was quickly over- 
'taken by a Sergeant Despatch rider, who assured me of the 
'near proximity of some of our own R.A.F. tenders, for 
'which I sat down to wait with a light heart. I now saw 

i9i8] MORE ESCAPES 261 

'three of our machines returning to Zenjan and at 3.30 
'p.m. one of our tenders appeared on the road. I now had 
'the greatest difficulty in stopping the tender, the officer 
'of the Gurkhas who was inside first of all suggested shoot- 
'ing me and finally trying to knock me down, which he 
'nearly succeeded in doing, in my efforts to take up all the 
'road. Finally by shouting in English I assured them of my 
'nationality, and was conveyed back to the camp of the 
'2nd Gurkhas where I was received v/ith most excellent 
'treatment, and a good feed.' 

The modesty of the report cannot conceal the fine spirit 
which alone enabled Lieutenant Williams to reach the 
safety of the British lines. There is irony in the circum- 
stance that a few weeks later, when he was flying peace- 
fully above Baghdad, the wings of his aeroplane folded 
back in the air and he was killed in the ensuing crash. 

On the day that Lieutenant Williams reported to his 
squadron after his escape, three other officers were faced 
with a comparable adventure. On the nth of October 
three R.E.8 aeroplanes, with an escort, left on a mission to 
attack Turkish columns. The escorting pilot. Lieutenant 
K. M. Pennington, after he had dropped bombs and used 
his machine-gun against enemy troops, was forced to land 
with engine trouble. Lieutenant A. E. Morgan, one of 
the R.E.8 pilots (observer. Lieutenant J. C. Chacksfield), 
landed and picked up the Martinsyde pilot, but the R.E.8 
came to grief through hitting a large stone when taking-off 
again. The three officers set out for the hills, and after 
seven days of incredible hardship and danger, during which 
120 miles were covered on foot, they walked into Allmazar, 
'all more than glad to be safely back with the certainty of 
'a good meal and an opportunity of tending rather blistered 

Little more need be written here about the final opera- 
tions in Persia. After the signing of the Armistice with 
Turkey, the Norperforce was concentrated at Enzeli for 
an operation to reoccupy Baku. This movement took 
place on the 17th of November 1918, but the story of the 
action is outside the scope of this history, and it will now be 
necessary to return to Mesopotamia for the final campaign. 

^he Autumn Campaign m Mesopotamia 

[Map, p. 264] 

On the 25th of September 191 8 the War Office, in a 
telegram, thus summarized the mihtary situation in the 
Middle East for the information of Sir Percy Z. Cox, newly 
appointed British Minister to Tehran: 'The complete 
destruction of the whole Turkish army in Palestine leaves 
Syria open to invasion. Every anti-Turkish element in 
the country will support the advancing British. The 
communications of the Turkish force in Mesopotamia are 
thus seriously threatened and in all probability it will 
be forced to abandon Mesopotamia altogether. Arabia is 
completely lost to them and the fall of Medina is now im- 
minent. Turkey, in addition to being faced with the loss of 
three-quarters of her Asiatic territory, is gravely threatened 
in Europe by the Allied advance in the Balkans, which, 
since 15th September, has continued uninterruptedly. 
The Bulgarian army is in a critical situation and a slight 
further advance by the Allies will sever it in two. To meet 
all these dangers on so many fronts the Turks have only 
one army left, which is now in the Caucasus and Persia. 
General AUenby's victory has already compelled them to 
transfer to Constantinople a division which was destined 
for Tabriz ; and the situation in the Balkans and Palestine 
will completely paralyse Turkish operations in the Middle 
East, and in all probability will lead very soon to the 
evacuation of Persia. Thus the whole situation has been 
transformed in the last few days and the Turks must now 
think only of protecting their own territory and not of 
further aggression.'^ 

Two days after this telegram was dispatched Bulgaria 
asked for an armistice, and it was reported that the 
German and Turkish troops would be withdrawn from the 
Caucasus. The general military situation and cooler weather 
made the moment ideal for a final offensive in Mesopo- 
tamia. On the 2nd of October Lieut enant-GeneralMarshall 
was told, by telegram from the War Office, that Turkey 
might, because of the difficult position in which she found 
* See The Campaign in Mesopotamia, igi4-igj8, vol. iv, p. 254. 


herself, ask in the near future for hostilities to cease. It 
was advisable in the circumstances that as much ground as 
possible should be gained up the Tigris. Furthermore, to 
help a possible advance by General Allenby's cavalry in the 
direction of Aleppo, a cavalry raid up the Euphrates should 
additionally be considered. 

The main operations along the Tigris v^ere entrusted to 
Lieutenant-General Sir A. S. Cobbe, commanding the I 
Corps. To protect his right flank a column from the III 
Corps, under the command of Brigadier-General A. C. 
Lewin, w^as to advance on the Hne Tauq-Kirkuk-Altun 
Kopri in order to prevent the Turks in that area from 
moving dov^n the Little Zab. 

No. 63 Squadron (less a half-Flight at Ramadi) and 'A' 
Flight of No. 72 Squadron, at Samarra, were to work with 
the I Corps. No. 30 Squadron (less a half- Flight at Zenjan, 
Persia) at Kifri, and 'C Fhght of No. 72 Squadron at Mir- 
jana, were attached to Brigadier-General Lewin's column. 
Kite Balloons were judged to be unsuited to the projected 
warfare of rapid movement, and No. 23 Kite Balloon 
Company therefore was ordered to return to England: it 
left Mesopotamia on the 27th of October. 

The main enemy position on the Tigris was at the Fat-ha 
gorge, thirty-five miles north of the British railhead at 
Tikrit. The position, naturally strong, had been developed 
during a year and a half, and Lieutenant-General Cobbe 
considered that to make a direct assault upon it would prove 
costly and indecisive. As, owing to lack of water, a turning 
movement round the Turkish right flank was not practi- 
cable, except for armoured cars, it was decided to turn the 
enemy's left, secure a crossing over the Little Zab, and 
drive the Turks across to the right bank of the Tigris 
where it was hoped that the major portion of the enemy 
force covering Mosul would be cut off and destroyed. 

During the summer months the Royal Air Force, by 
photography, had provided the material for the making of 
maps of the country over which the advances were to take 
place. In connexion with the specific military plans, finally 
adopted, many special air reconnaissances were made to 
survey the passes and river beds to report upon their 


suitability for the movement of a force of all arms. Typical 
of the information sought is a request for a specified air 
reconnaissance which was to be made 'with special refer- 
'ence to roads, trails, and water'. The air observers were 
asked to state 'whether roads are fit for wheels, any serious 
'obstacles, and also particular attention to be paid to 
'wells [at places which were named], also whether country 
'appears generally suitable for Ford vans'. Demands of 
this kind, general and comprehensive, called for a detailed 
survey. The reader would not be much helped if the result- 
ing reconnaissance reports were reproduced, because they 
were compiled for staff study in conjunction with maps, 
air photographs, and general intelligence information, but 
a representative extract from one of the reports may con- 
vey some idea of the care with which the information was 
compiled. 'No wheeled traffic would be able to proceed 
'south-west of a line B.B. 96 central to B.B. 50 central 
'[the references are to points on the map]. A good route 
'would be as follows: Along Ain Nukhaila-Kirkuk road to 
'a point about twelve miles north-east of Pass. After pass- 
'ing water-holes B.B. 96 b.-98 strike into desert on a 
'bearing of about 320 degrees; on this route there are about 
'five nullahs to cross; these are narrow water-channels 
'usually v/ith vertical banks a few feet high. The ground 
'does not appear to slope down to them at all from either 
'side, and they would not be serious obstacles. Ramping 
'might be necessary in one or two cases. ... At B.B. 62 
'a. 27 a well-defined track from B.B. 61 a. 45 leading east 
'to Kirkuk is crossed. A large mound here should be a good 
'landmark. From B.B. 61 b. 29 to B.B. 61 b. 51 there is a 
'large canal and the track crosses this at B.B. 61. a This 
'crossing looks rather rough and steep. May be passable 
'for wheels. By continuing north-west from the mound, 
'this canal would be avoided and river bank would be 
'reached about the village B.B. 50 d. 44. . . .' 

A stranger might find it difficult to learn anything from 
the figures of fare stages set out upon the tickets of an 
omnibus in the service of the London Transport Board, 
but a driver or conductor might easily, from contempla- 
tion of a ticket, visualize a journey from one end of London 



to the other, picturing something of the scene and of the 
buildings along the route. The air reconnaissance reports 
of the war may be compared with fare tickets. Compiled 
in a sort of technical shorthand they seem almost meaning- 
less, but they conveyed information of immediate use to 
the military staffs, and they also provided items of which 
the value might become apparent only after study, perhaps 
in conjunction with other and diverse clues. It would be 
false to dramatize the reconnaissance work for the reader, 
who should, however, remember that it formed a major 
activity of the air squadrons, and that upon the great 
numbers of reports regularly compiled by the air observers, 
and expertly assessed by the military staffs, much of the 
detail of the military plans was based. 

On the 15 th of October, by which time the preparations 
for the offensive were well advanced, the aeroplanes of No. 
63 Squadron flew to the advanced aerodrome at Tikrit, 
where 'A' Flight of No. 72 Squadron was already installed. 
On the 1 8th Brigadier-General Lewin moved out from 
Tuz Khurmatli and occupied Tauq and the bridge four 
miles to the north-east, taking a few prisoners. By the 
morning of the 23rd the main preliminary moves had 
been completed, and Lieutenant-General Cobbe was in 
touch with the enemy on both banks of the Tigris, while 
Brigadier-General Lewin had reached Taza Khurmatli, 
twelve miles south-west of Kirkuk. Swift enveloping move- 
ments during the night of the 23rd/24th caused the enemy 
to abandon the Fat-ha position before daybreak. The 
pilots of 'A' Flight of No. 72 Squadron were in the air at 
dawn, and they found retreating Turks on the roads and 
they attacked them with machine-gun fire from a low 
height. One of the pilots was the first to bring back the 
news that the Turks were leaving the Fat-ha positions. 
The main air activity during the rest of the day was low- 
flying attack on the retreating troops. No opportunity 
was offered, such as had come the way of the Royal Air 
Force in the Nablus pass in Palestine, to induce a panic by 
means of bombing and machine-gun attacks concentrated 
in time and place, but although the air attacks during the 
advance to Mosul were necessarily diffused, the relentless 


pressure upon the retreating Turks was cumulative in its 

The compHcated enemy and British movements through- 
out the 25th v^ere v^ell reported by contact patrol observers 
of No. 63 Squadron. In the morning a pilot and observer 
of the squadron found a Turkish column v^hich they 
estimated at about 1,500 infantry v^ith horse transport. 
They flev^ back to the advanced head-quarters of the 
I Corps to tellof v^hat they had seen, and they also dropped 
messages on the w^ay for the British cavalry. The oppor- 
tunity offered for air attack upon the column v^as not 
missed. Tv^o S.E.5 pilots and a Sopw^ith 'Camel' pilot of 
'A' Fhght of No. 72 Squadron at once set out in search of 
the Turks w^ho v^ere found east of the Humr bridge. The 
pilots repeatedly dived on the column as they fired their 
machine-guns, but the enemy troops revealed a fine dis- 
cipline. They did not scatter in panic, as had usually 
happened in similar circumstances, but they kept their 
formation and brought fire to bear upon the aeroplanes, 
w^ith the result that one S.E.5 v^as damaged and had to be 
landed near the British advanced cavalry, while the pilot 
in the Sopwith 'Camel' received a slight leg wound. The 
spirit of the Turks, however, was broken when they realized 
that if the easterly march was continued they would be 
enveloped by oncoming British cavalry. During the after- 
noon, therefore, the men turned back and recrossed the 
Tigris to the right bank, and they moved in increasing dis- 
order as they were subjected to further attacks from the 
air, notably by the single-seater pilots of 'A' Flight of No. 
72 Squadron. 

On the 26th the Turks made a stand along the Mushak 
position, which was one of great natural strength, but 
during the night of the 26th/27th they further withdrew 
to a position covering Sharqat. British cavalry, however, 
guided by a local inhabitant, crossed the Tigris by a ford 
in the afternoon some fourteen miles above Sharqat and 
galloped to seize the Huwaish Wadi which they reached 
without meeting opposition. By the morning of the 27th 
two cavalry regiments, with two guns and a machine-gun 
squadron, were in a strong position across the Mosul road. 


While these various movements were taking place on the 
26th the aeroplanes, owing to the difficulties of communi- 
cation on the ground, were mainly employed to report the 
changing dispositions of the British and Turkish troops. 

All efforts were now directed to preventing the Turkish 
force from breaking through the cavalry screen in an effort 
to win through to Mosul. The Turks made a desperate 
attempt to get through on the morning of the 28th. Some 
2,500 enemy troops, supported by guns and howitzers, 
attacked the nth Cavalry Brigade, which had meanwhile 
been reinforced by the i-yth Gurkhas from the 53rd In- 
fantry Brigade. These attempts, and subsequent efforts to 
turn the right flank of the cavalry, were repulsed. 

The British troops engaged had been marching and 
fighting in difficult country for days, and by the evening 
of the 28th they were exhausted. The moment, however, 
was critical, and it was imperative that the men should be 
called upon to make a final determined effort if the Turks 
were to be forced to surrender. If the pressure were relaxed 
there was every chance that the enemy force would open 
a gap to Mosul. There was fierce fighting during the night 
of the 28th/29th of October, when all enemy attempts to 
cut a way through to the north were frustrated. While the 
Turks were being held in the north the men of the 17th 
Division to the south were forcing the enemy rear-guards 
upon the main body in their position north of Sharqat. 
This position consisted of successive lines of hastily dug 
entrenchments commanding ravines which the British 
must cross to attack. In the afternoon of the 29th the 
attack was launched, and the Turks, fighting with the 
courage of despair, held a part of their positions until 
well into the night. When dawn came on the 30th it was 
clear the end was near. The way to Mosul was barred, 
and the force at Sharqat, hemmed in on all sides, packed 
into ravines raked by a murderous fire from which there 
was no escape, was in a hopeless position. Just when the 
British infantry were about to assault, white flags of sur- 
render fluttered along the enemy lines. The last battle 
fought by the Turkish army in the war was over. The fight- 
ing had been characterized by a tenacity which reflected 


credit upon the skill and qualities of leadership of General 
Ismail Hakki Bey, the Turkish commander, the same officer 
who, in the spring of 191 7, had shown a comparable stub- 
bornness in command of the Turkish forces on the right 
bank of the Tigris opposite Kut al Imara. 

After the surrender cavalry and light armoured-cars 
were ordered along the Mosul road, and they rounded up 
Turkish troops in the neighbourhood of Qaiyara. The total 
captures during the final operations amounted to 11,322 
prisoners, 51 guns, 130 machine-guns, 2,000 animals, and 
war material of many kinds. The armistice with Turkey 
was signed at noon on the 31st of October 1918, and the 
war on the Mesopotamian front ended with Lieutenant- 
General Marshall's occupation of the Mosul vilayet. 

War Operations in India 

A central flying school was being formed to open at 
Sitapur in India in September 1914, but the outbreak of 
war ended the arrangements, and such staff and equip- 
ment as had already been allotted to the school were dis- 
tributed for active service. The formation and work of the 
air force unit maintained by the Government of India for 
service during the early stages of the campaign in Meso- 
potamia have already been noted. ^ 

In August 1 91 5 the Viceroy of India was anxious to 
make use of aeroplanes on the north-west frontier w^here 
unrest had been caused subsequent to the entry of Turkey 
into the war. Accordingly a unit called 'A' Flight of No. 
31 Squadron was formed at South Farnborough and left 
England with five B.E.2C aeroplanes for India at the end 
of November 1915, in company with a nucleus of personnel 
to form an Aircraft Park. The party arrived on Boxing 
Day and moved to a station at Nowshera where they stayed 
until March 191 6, when a further move was made to Risal- 
pur. 'B' Flight of No. 31 Squadron, provided by No. 22 
Squadron, left England in February 191 6, and the third 
Flight, 'C\ drawn from the home defence brigade, followed 
from England in May. By October 191 6 No. 31 Squadron, 

^ Vol. V, Ch. V. 


together with the Aircraft Park, all under the command of 
Major C. R. S. Bradley, had been concentrated on the 
aerodrome at Risalpur. 

No. 31 Squadron took part in operations on the Moh- 
mand border in the latter part of 191 6. Reconnaissances 
were made in October and November in co-operation with 
forces covering the establishment of wire-connected block- 
houses along the border. A lashkar, that is to say a body of 
armed tribesmen, about 6,000 strong, was discovered from 
the air on the 13th of November in positions where it 
threatened Shabkadar. Major-General Sir F. Campbell, 
in command, thereupon issued orders for an attack to be 
made on the tribesmen on the morning of the 1 5th. Twelve 
aeroplanes from Risalpur, making use of an advanced 
landing-ground at Shabkadar, gave their help. During the 
morning wireless-fitted aeroplanes made it possible for 
the artillery to break up the enemy concentrations, and in 
the afternoon, when the tribesmen were in flight, they were 
bombed and attacked with Lewis guns from the air. By 
the evening of the 15th, when the aeroplanes left to return 
to Risalpur, it seemed that the tribesmen had been effec- 
tively dispersed, and air reconnaissances next day confirmed 
that this was so. Some small scattered bodies were found 
and bombed on the i6th, but reconnaissances on sub- 
sequent days failed to find any traces of the tribesmen who, 
it was clear, had gone back to their homes. 

Towards the end of January 191 7 'A' Flight of No. 31 
Squadron was transferred to Bannu for work with the 
Bannu and Derajat Brigades in North Waziristan and the 
adjacent province of Khost, where unrest was marked. 
Rumours that flying chariots existed had spread among the 
the tribesmen, but there were apparently few who believed. 
The arrival of 'A' Flight was therefore reported to have 
created a disturbing impression. After reconnaissances had 
been made over a wide area of Mahsud country the Flight 
returned to Risalpur on the i ith of February. At the end 
of the month, however, there came news that a Mahsud 
lashkar was on the move towards Sarwekai, a post garrisoned 
by South Waziristan Militia, and three aeroplanes were 
sent to Tank to investigate. Not long after their presence 


became known the tribesmen dispersed, and by the middle 
of the month the air detachment was back again at Risalpur. 

During ensuing weeks, however, the Mahsuds became 
more brazenly troublesome, encouraged by an apparent 
immunity from punishment. The aeroplanes, objects of 
dread before they had revealed themselves, had appeared 
to the Mahsuds as of no account, the only effect which 
resulted from their passage being the casting of a shadow 
across the ground. It was obvious that some decisive action 
was necessary in order to prevent the tribesmen from get- 
ting out of hand, and on the 19th of May the Government 
of India sanctioned punitive measures. Meanwhile, on the 
5th, three B.E.2c's from 'B' Flight of No. 31 Squadron had 
been transferred to Tank for routine work with the forces 
in the Derajat command. There were daily reconnais- 
sances, and on the 12th a few drums of ammunition were 
fired from the air into a blanket and tent encampment 
discovered by one of the B.E.2c's. The machine-gun fire 
sufficed to scatter about 1,000 Mahsuds, and a small bomb- 
ing attack next day caused the camp to disappear. *B' 
Flight continued to co-operate from Tank until the end 
of May when it was relieved by 'C Flight for the special 
punitive operations. 

As a preliminary the area was photographed, and from 
the photographs a map was made for the use of the general 
officer commanding the South Waziristan Field Force at 
Jandola. While the operations were taking place, in the 
week beginning on the 20th of June, the aeroplanes bombed 
the tribesmen, whose villages in particular suffered heavily 
through fires caused by the bombing. When the Mahsuds 
made their submission they were frank about their dread of 
air attack as a form of Government action against which 
they were entirely powerless. That the bombing helped 
to bring a quick ending to the operations was indicated in 
a telegram on the 27th of June, ordering the air attacks to 
cease. This said: 'G.O.C. Forces congratulates Royal Fly- 
*ing Corps on successful bombing raids in Mahsud territory. 
'These raids have had great effect and this morning a 
'messenger arrived from Koniguran asking that they might 
'be stopped while peace terms were being considered. He 

1917-18] POLICE WORK 271 

'says one bomb killed 12 men, wounded a number and 
'destroyed some cattle. If Mahsuds now come to terms a 
'full share of the credit will be due to Royal Flying Corps.' 

The Mahsuds ratified the terms at a fully representative 
Peace Jirga held on the loth of August, and peace was 
formally declared two days later. Subsequently, where 
sections of the tribe proved slow in keeping to the terms, 
or showed obstinacy, a demonstration from the air led to 
quick settlements. By the i8th of August the presence of 
aeroplanes was no longer deemed necessary and 'C Flight 
of No. 31 Squadron therefore returned to Risalpur. The 
military authorities were so impressed with the effect of 
air attack on the morale of the tribesmen that it was decided 
to form another squadron, and this was done in September 
when No. 114 Squadron was formed at Lahore with a 
nucleus provided by No. 31 Squadron. 

There was quiet on the north-west frontier during the 
final months of 191 7 and in the beginning of 191 8, and the 
flying personnel were mainly concerned with the routine 
of training and the work of a general survey of landing- 
grounds. In February 191 8, however, the Marri tribes in 
Baluchistan began to stir and, on the I9th/20th, they made 
an attack, which proved unsuccessful, on Gumbaz fort. 
The Khetran tribes, stimulated by the Marris, burnt and 
looted the Government buildings at Barkhan on the 7th 
of March. Meanwhile aeroplanes had been dispatched to 
the troubled area, two to Sibi, two to Duki, and five to 
Deri Ghazi Khan. Reconnaissances had been made of the 
Sibi plains, and of the passes to the Marri hills, in the days 
following the attack on Gumbaz, but no signs of the tribes- 
men had been discovered. On the ist of March an alarm 
was received at Sibi that some 3,000 Marris were making 
their approach from Chandia, fifteen miles away. One 
aeroplane, armed with a Lewis gun and four small bombs, 
set out to stop the advance, but no enemy could be found, 
and it was afterwards known that an efflux of spectators 
from a Chandia sports meeting had given rise to the 
rumours of Marris on the move. 

In connexion with the military punitive measures the 
aeroplanes were employed to bomb villages and camps, 


and on the 22nd of March it was ordered that Kahan, 
capital of the Marri district, should be bombed daily. 
Dust storms were raging at the time the order was received, 
and it was not until the 24th that the bombing could 
begin. On this day three bombs were dropped, one of 
Ii2-lb. weight and two of 20-lb., and it was afterwards 
learned that they killed fourteen armed tribesmen. Sub- 
sequent bombing caused much damage in the village. By 
the end of March the Khetran tribes had submitted, and 
by the middle of April the more troublesome Marris had 
been subdued. Kahan was occupied on the 19th of April 
when the Marri Nawab and tribal headman made their un- 
conditional submission. For the remainder of the year 
there was peace. 


Battle Front. October 1917... 

■' . December 1917 

" at time of Armistice 411' ^o/, 


(Map, facing) 

The calamity which overtook the ItaHan army on the 
Caporetto front was sudden. Directed hy the German 
general staff, the Austro-German offensive which was 
launched against the Italians on the morning of the 24th of 
October 191 7 had for aim the crippling of the Italian army 
by means of one shattering battle, secretly prepared in all 
its details. On the flanks of the attack the Italians resisted, 
but at Caporetto the line broke, and the two Italian corps 
guarding the sector melted away, with the result that a 
wide gap was opened for a rapid exploitation of the enemy 
success. For a fortnight Italy was threatened with a major 
disaster, but Otto von Below, the German general in com- 
mand of the offensive, had insufficient reserves to exact the 
maximum advantage from the victory he had won, and, 
on the loth of November, the Italian retreat ended along 
the line of the river Piave. 

The German air service had made a contribution to the 
victory. The maps, especially of the mountain districts, 
had been found to be inaccurate, and the task of providing 
the general staff with maps, upon which precise military 
plans could be based, fell upon the German pilots and 
observers. 'The squadrons of the German Air Force 
'attached to the German troops in this district helped the 
'General Staff out of their dilemma in the shortest possible 
'time. A few days sufficed for our fighting pilots, with the 
'daring and experience they had acquired on the Western 
'front, to drive all the Italian airmen from the air, parti- 
'cularly as the Italians had hitherto only been confronted 
'by the Austrian Air Force, which was at that time provided 
'with inferior machines. Consequently our reconnaissance 
'machines were ensured command of the air over the 
'battle-fields, and were therefore able to carry out their 
'work unhindered. Before long they had completed a photo- 
'graphic survey of the districts on both sides of the lines, 
'and had provided the General Staff with a complete picture 

2504.6 X 

274 THE ITALIAN FRONT [ch. vii 

'of the enemy's railway system, the distribution of his forces, 
'and the disposition and strength of his flying units.' ^ 

On the 26th of October the British and French Govern- 
ments had agreed to send divisions from the Western front 
to help the Italians, and three days later a British detach- 
ment, consisting of the head-quarters of the XIV Corps, 
together with the 23rd and 44th Divisions, had been ordered 
to entrain for Italy. General Sir Herbert C. O. Plumer 
arrived to take command of the British troops in Italy on 
the loth of November and he established his head-quarters 
at Legnago, but shortly afterwards moved to Padua. 

For air co-operation. No. 28 Squadron, equipped with 
Sopwith 'Camels', and No. 34 Squadron, with two-seater 
R.E.8 aeroplanes, both withdrawn from France, were 
grouped to form a new wing — the Fifty-first — under the 
command of Lieutenant-Colonel R. P. Mills. In order to 
make the squadrons independent operational units they 
were each allotted one month's supply of petrol and oil, 
were given what was judged to be an adequate supply 
of transport and spares, and had their establishments in- 
creased to allow of immediate replacements of casualties. 
The first of the five trains in which the squadrons and 
the impedimenta were to travel left Candas on the 7th of 
November. There was nothing to be gained by sending 
the aeroplanes by air. In Italy all was uncertainty and 
the squadrons would in any event be unable to operate 
without their stores and transport. The organization at 
the Candas depot was such that the business of entraining 
the units could be done quickly and efficiently, and in the 
circumstances it was preferable that they should be dis- 
patched to arrive complete. 

While these arrangements were under way, an Allied 
conference assembled on the 5th of November at Rapallo, 
at which Mr. Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister, 
agreed, after consultation with the Chief of the Imperial 
General Staff, to send two additional British divisions to 
Italy, with two more aeroplane squadrons. Two Sopwith 
'Camel' squadrons, Nos. 45 and 66^ were chosen for transfer, 

^ Neumann, The German Air Force in the Great War (Eng. trans.), 
p. 236. 


No. 66 moving first on the 17th of November. Mean- 
time, the War Cabinet had decided to send yet a third 
detachment to Italy, consisting of the XI Corps head- 
quarters and two divisions, and it became necessary in con- 
sequence to add another corps squadron. No. 42, equipped 
with R.E.S's. Nos. 42 and 45 Squadrons moved to Fien- 
villers on the i6th of November preparatory to dismant- 
ling and packing the aeroplanes for entrainment. The 
trains housing No. 42 Squadron left Candas for Italy on 
the 26th and 27th of November, and those with No. 45 
Squadron on the nth and 12th of December. 

To administer the increased air detachment, it was 
decided to send to Italy a Brigade head-quarters under 
Brigadier-General T. I. Webb-Bowen, who left on the 
i6th of November and formed the VII Brigade at Mantua 
two days later. Brigadier-General Webb-Bowen, in a 
report at the end of November, proposed that a new army 
wing should be formed and that the existing Fifty-first 
Wing should include only the corps squadrons. He also 
asked for a balloon wing of two companies. The War 
Office stated in reply that the head-quarters of the Four- 
teenth Wing, together with No. 4 Balloon Wing, would 
be sent to Italy as soon as possible. These units left Candas 
on the 25th and 26th of December. 

Meanwhile, the first squadrons to arrive had begun 
operations over the front. Nos. 28 and 34 Squadrons had 
reached Milan on the 12th and 14th of November, and, 
by working day and night, the squadron personnel had 
assembled and tested their aircraft on Milan aerodrome by 
the 14th (No. 28 Squadron), and the 17th of November 
(No. 34 Squadron). On the latter date the two squadrons, 
with the Fifty-first Wing head-quarters, moved to Ghedi 
and Montichiari, making a further move, five days later, 
to Verona. To provide a mobile source of supply for the 
squadrons, 'Z' Aircraft Park, which had been estabhshed at 
Milan on the i6th of November, sent forward lorries and 
trailers with two weeks' supplies of fuel and spares. This 
sub-Park, as it was called, was to travel in close proximity 
to the squadrons and was to draw fresh suppHes from Milan 
as required. It moved to Verona on the 24th of November. 

276 THE ITALIAN FRONT [ch. vii 

On the 28th further moves were made: the wing head- 
quarters went to Villalta, north-north-west of Camisano, 
and Nos. 28 and 34 Squadrons moved to Grossa, north of 
the same town. Verona was occupied by No. 66 Squadron. 
On the 28th also an aeroplane supply depot was formed at 
S. Pelagio, south-south-west of Padua. 'Z' Aircraft Park 
and the sub-Park moved to the same area on the 29th of 
November and the ist of December. 

By this time the general situation had become clearer, 
and it was agreed that the British should take over from 
the Italians the Montello sector of the Piave, with the 
French on their left. The 41st Division went into the 
line on the 2nd of December from east of Nervesa to a 
point opposite Fontigo, and the 23rd Division relieved 
the Italians two days later from Fontigo to east of Vidor. 
No. 34 Squadron was accordingly transferred from Grossa 
to an aerodrome at Istrana, west of Treviso, on the 3rd of 

The air situation when the British appeared on the 
front was unsatisfactory. The Austrian air service had 
been reinforced for the offensive by German squadrons, 
and the military victory which had been won over the 
Italians had made the enemy pilots aggressively confident. 
The first British flight over the Italian lines took place on 
the 29th of November when No. 34 Squadron attempted a 
photographic reconnaissance in the Montello area. Four 
Sopwith ^Camels' of No. 28 Squadron escorted the R.E.S's, 
but so persistently did enemy fighters attack the British 
aeroplanes that little photography was possible. One 
enemy single-seater, during a prolonged combat, was 
shot to pieces in the air by a Sopwith 'Camel' pilot. 

On the 7th of December No. 42 Squadron arrived at 
Istrana, by way of Padua and San Pelagio, and began opera- 
tions two days later. Meanwhile, the second fighting 
squadron. No. 66^ had moved from Verona to Grossa on 
the 4th, thus making the strength of the Royal Flying 
Corps on the British front two fighter squadrons and two 
corps squadrons. 

The British front settled to trench warfare, and the 
amount of work required of the two corps squadrons was 


unduly heavy because the area was new. In addition to 
the tactical duties on the corps front, daily strategical 
reconnaissances, visual and photographic, were required by 
general head-quarters. Three routes were allotted for suc- 
cessive days, in particular to enable watch to be kept upon 
the railway systems, and an escorting force of six Sopwith 
'Camels' was normally provided. The two corps squadrons 
had also to undertake bombing operations as part of the 
offensive plan to force the enemy air service to adopt a 
defensive policy. It was discovered in December that the 
enemy pilots were using an aerodrome at San Felice, and 
this was bombed on the 15th and i6th by No. 42 Squadron: 
the aerodrome was seen a few days later to have been 
evacuated. The enemy air service retaliated with a day- 
light attack on the aerodrome at Istrana, 'every machine 
'attached to the Army'^ being impressed into the attack 
which took place on Boxing Day. An officer of No. 34 
Squadron records : 'Our squadron was not operating at all 
'that day, and only the squadron commander and a few 
'clerks had gone to the aerodrome. The remainder of the 
'squadron was in the village about one and a half miles 
'away. About 11 a.m. I started to walk to the aerodrome. 
'About half-way there I noticed that our anti-aircraft guns 
'were firing. This was a most unusual occurrence, and 
'when I looked to see what the target was, I could hardly 
'believe my eyes. About five miles away, flying at all heights 
'between 500 and 3,000 feet, was the most heterogeneous 
'collection of aircraft I have ever seen. Making no attempt 
'to keep together, but, on the contrary, widely scattered, 
'thirty or forty Austrian machines were slowly approach- 
'ing us. Nearer and nearer they came. Every few hundred 
'yards one would drop its bombs, and make for home. 
'Finally, about twenty reached the aerodrome and bombed 
'it. After bombing the aerodrome they did not go straight 
'back, but becoming more dispersed they wandered all over 
'the country at about 1,000 feet. When I arrived at the 
'aerodrome I found that seven had fallen among our 
'hangars and every machine had been hit. The damage 
'was, however, trivial, and within one and a half hours all 
^ Neumann, pp. 238-9. 

278 THE ITALIAN FRONT [ch. vii 

*were serviceable. The Italian squadron on the aerodrome 
*had not been so fortunate, for although only one bomb 
'had fallen amongst them, it had set a hangar on fire and 
'destroyed two machines. We treated the raid lightly and 
'thought no more of it. An amusing sequel lay in store for 
'us. After lunch I and another officer set out to walk to 
'corps head-quarters at Fanzolo for tea. It was about six 
'kilometres away. As we climbed into a field over a hedge 
'near C. Gritti Rizzi, we were astounded to see a small 
'Austrian machine there, with the pilot apparently dead 
'in his cockpit. On approaching it we heard snores, and 
'found that the pilot was merely asleep. His machine-gun 
'was loaded so we pointed it at him and awakened him. We 
'talked to him in Italian, but finding that he talked perfect 
'English, carried on our conversation in our own tongue. 
'He soon realized his position and became quite affable. 
'All that he remembered was that he had had a very good 
'Christmas dinner at his squadron, and had put ten officers 
'to bed at about 7 that morning. He himself had just got 
'into bed when an order had come from Army head-quarters 
'at Vittorio that every serviceable aeroplane in the army 
'was to be loaded up with bombs immediately and proceed 
'to bomb the aerodromes across the Piave by way of 
'reprisal. The machine he had taken had not been filled up 
'with petrol, and after forty minutes he had been forced to 
'land. He had sent his mechanic to steal some petrol, 
'hoping still to escape. We took him to corps head-quarters 
'where we learned that five other machines had landed 
'south of the Piave and several of the pilots were "not 
'quite sober".' ^ 

This description throws light upon the conditions of the 
time, but it may be remembered that the apparently hap- 
hazard way in which the attempt was made seems at least 
to be a proof of the lack of respect which the Austrian and 
German pilots had for such opposition as they expected 
to meet. They had been accustomed for some time to do in 
the air very much as they liked, and although the attack 

^ Two of the six aeroplanes which landed in the British area had been 
shot down by pilots of No. 28 Squadron. Italian pilots claimed an 
additional three destroyed on the Austrian side of the lines. 


may impress the reader as 2i jeu d^ esprit, fostered by the 
pouring of festive libations, at least it was prompted by 
spirits which were high. An enemy conscious of inferiority 
does not normally indulge in such adventures. 

More serious bombing was undertaken by the German 
No. 4 Bombing Squadron which had been attached to the 
army head-quarters at the beginning of December. These 
bombers flew at night, and although they occasionally 
attacked aerodromes they chiefly directed their operations 
against the towns of Treviso, Padua, and Venice. As a 
member of the German air service who flew on the front 
says : 'In Padua, and in Venice, the grandchildren of the 
'present generation will still be told the story of these 
'northern "Barbarians", who, like the storm wind of the 
'north itself, swooped down on their black pinions and 
^carried terror and destruction in the stillness of night 
'along the sleeping plains at the foot of the Alps.'' 

The black pinions carried a measure of destruction to 
the aerodrome at Istrana at the end of December. During 
the night of the 29th, and again during the 30th, the aero- 
drome was bombed and a hangar with one aeroplane of 
No. 34 Squadron was destroyed, and several hangars to- 
gether with six aeroplanes were damaged, as were workshop 
and photographic lorries. 

Bombing and counter-bombing continued in January 
1 91 8, and air superiority definitely passed to the Allied air 
services. The Sopwith 'Camels', with their experienced 
pilots, whether employed as fighters or bombers, outclassed 
the enemy fighters. The 'Camels' undertook a bombing 
offensive against the aerodromes. In the early morning of 
the 19th of February eleven from Nos. 28 and 66 Squad- 
rons, each carrying four 25-lb. bombs, attacked the aero- 
drome at Casarsa from about 200 feet and set fire to a former 
Italian airship shed. The attack was so successful that four 
Sopwith 'Camels' from each squadron were set aside for 
attacks on allotted enemy aerodromes. This type of attack, 
however, became less successful and more expensive, and 
it gave way to concentrated attacks, which proved to be 
effective and economical, on selected aerodromes, 
^ Neumann, p. 239. 

28o THE ITALIAN FRONT [ch. vii 

By the beginning of March the Itahan army, after four 
months of quiet, had progressed far towards recovery. 
Furthermore, it had been obvious for some time that the 
whole German preoccupation was with the Western front. 
Some of the British and French strength, therefore, was 
withdrawn from Italy to France. The 41st Division moved 
at the beginning of March and the 5th Division early in 
April. On the loth of March Sir Herbert Plumer handed 
over the command of the remaining British troops in Italy 
to Lieutenant-General theEarlofCavan, commanding the 
XIV Corps. The Fifty-first Wing head-quarters left for 
France on the loth of March and was followed by No. 20 
Balloon Company next day. On the 14th No. 42 Squadron 
moved. On the 26th of March Lieutenant-Colonel P. B. 
Joubert de la Ferte, of the Fourteenth Wing, took over the 
command of the Royal Flying Corps in Italy from Brigadier- 
General Webb-Bowen who, with the staff of the VII 
Brigade, returned to France. The reduction in the strength 
of the Royal Flying Corps had been important, and by 
way of compensation a Flight of Bristol Fighters was sent 
to Italy from England. It was first attached to No. 28 
Squadron as a fourth Flight, but was soon afterwards 
transferred to No. 34 Squadron and called 'Z' Flight.^ 
The Bristol Fighters relieved the R.E.S's of responsibility 
for distant reconnaissance work, a task which they had ful- 
filled, without loss under escort, for four months. 

It was decided that the British troops should, during the 
summer, occupy a sector in the mountains. They were 
accordingly relieved by Italians on the Piave in the middle 
of March and took over a stretch of front on the Asiago 
plateau, between Asiago and Canove. The ultimate in- 
tention was to make an Allied attack from this position 
towards Val Sugana, but developments in France led to 
various postponements, and then, as a result of an Austrian 
offensive on the Italian front in June, the Allied attack 
was abandoned. 

In accordance with the change of front, the head- 
quarters of the Fourteenth Wing moved from Villalta to 

^ When a second Flight was added to 'Z' FHght, in June, they became 
identified as No. 139 Squadron (on the 3rd of July). 


Sarcedo on the 26th of March. No. 34 Squadron moved 
from Istrana to Villaverla on the 30th. No. 66 Squadron 
had moved from Limbraga to Casa Piazza on the loth. 
On the 17th No. 45 Squadron flew from Istrana to Grossa. 

While the British were changing position, patrols, usually 
by three Sopwith 'Camels', were maintained at 10,000 
feet, from dawn to dusk, on both the Piave and the Asiago 
fronts to prevent enemy air observers from discovering the 
movements. When the transference of troops had been 
completed routine offensive patrols were ordered for the 
Asiago front, and areas were allotted for regular recon- 
naissance. The reconnaissances were made at first by single 
Bristol Fighters of 'Z' Flight, but on the 3rd of April the 
reconnaissance aeroplane failed to return, and subsequently 
an escort of three to six Sopwith 'Camels' was usually pro- 
vided. Air fighting was intermittent, but occasionally in- 
tense. On the 30th of March a patrol of three Sopwith 
'Camels' of No. 66 Squadron became involved with enemy 
fighters, which eventually aggregated nineteen. It appeared 
that six of them were destroyed, three by Lieutenant Alan 
Jerrard before he was himself shot down and made a 
prisoner; for his persistence in face of great odds Lieu- 
tenant Jerrard was awarded the Victoria Cross. 

At the beginning of April there were indications that 
the Austrians were making a concentration of troops astride 
the Brenta, although there were no real signs of an im- 
pending offensive. The weather throughout April was for 
the most part stormy and unfavourable for observation, 
from the air or the ground: such air reconnaissances as 
were made revealed occasional unusual movements within 
the Austrian lines, but the visibility was never good enough 
for adequate investigation. 

When the atmospheric conditions improved in May 
there was a notable activity in the air. Enemy pilots several 
times succeeded in crossing the British lines, and they 
dropped propaganda leaflets on the British troops. Recon- 
naissances disclosed Austrian preparations which seemed 
to indicate an attack in the Val Sugana area, and, to fore- 
stal the enemy, it was decided, in the middle of May, to 
prepare for an Allied offensive on the Asiago front. 

282 THE ITALIAN FRONT [ch. vii 

Within a few days, however, the whole position was 
changed. There was a marked increase of enemy artillery 
and aircraft activity in the Piave area, held by the Italians, 
and it became known from intelligence sources, and through 
captured prisoners, that a large-scale Austrian offensive 
was planned: as a result it was decided to postpone the 
proposed Allied attack on the Asiago plateau. 

On the morning of the 30th of May thirty-five Sopwith 
'Camels' from Nos. 28, 45, and 66 Squadrons, dropped a 
ton of bombs and fired 9,000 rounds of ammunition on 
enemy hutments in the northern section of the Val d'Assa. 
The pilots bombed in column with about 100 yards separat- 
ing the aeroplanes, and the attacks were made from under 
500 feet. 

In June enemy air activity showed a further increase, 
and reconnaissances were made of the British area. To put 
a stop to these reconnaissance flights the offensive patrol 
zones of the Fourteenth Wing were changed. On the 
loth of June a close patrol of the line between Forni 
and Gallio was instituted, and pilots were instructed that 
they were not to leave their allotted line except to attack 
hostile aeroplanes in the immediate vicinity of the British 
front. In addition to this barrage patrol, a second patrol, 
known as the long offensive patrol, was maintained parallel 
with the first, but about five miles distant between Casotto 
and Cismon. The patrols were, in the main, effective in 
preventing the enemy from making useful reconnaissances 
of the British area. It was not an uncommon sight to see 
enemy pilots jump from a burning or disabled aeroplane 
and float safely to earth by means of a parachute, and one 
who landed in this way in the British lines explained that 
he had twice before similarly escaped after his aeroplane 
had been set on fire in combat with British pilots over the 
Austrian lines. 

The increase of air activity was marked on the Piave 
front. Although the indications of an impending 
offensive seemed conclusive, a puzzling feature was an 
absence of rail and road activity in the back areas. Time 
and again in May and June special long reconnaissances 
were made to report upon the rail and road activity 


behind the immediate front, but nothing unusual was 

After a brief though violent bombardment the Austrian 
infantry attacked along the whole front from the sea to 
east of the Astico on the morning of the 15 th of June. The 
battle thus involved the ItaHans in the Piave, the French 
on Mount Grappa, and the British on the Asiago plateau. 
The British line was penetrated at a few points, but, except 
on the left, the line was quickly restored. The Austrians 
were ejected from their gains on the British left hy counter- 
attack on the morning of the i6th. In the mountain area, 
held hy the British, there was rain and mist on the morn- 
ing of the 15th and the pilots could do little to help. In 
the afternoon, when the weather became worse, the squad- 
rons of the Royal Air Force were diverted to assist the 
Italians on the Piave front where the flying conditions were 
less unfavourable. The Austrians had attacked the Italians 
under cover of smoke screens and, accompanied by low- 
flying aeroplanes, they had succeeded in crossing the Piave, 
following which reinforcements of fresh troops had pushed 
forward south of the river. 

The first news received by the British that the Austrians 
were crossing the Piave opposite the Montello had been 
brought in at 11.40 a.m. by the pilot in a Sopwith 'Camel' 
returning from patrol. Three 'Camels' of No. 45 Squadron 
left at 12.30 p.m., followed by three more at 12.40 p.m., 
and by three at 1.05 p.m. They each carried four 20-lb. 
bombs which were aimed at pontoon boats. One hit a 
pontoon loaded with men, and another destroyed a boat 
leaving the shore : troops were also attacked with machine- 
gun fire. The pilots returned with valuable information 
which showed that the Austrians were crossing the Piave 
in great numbers at several points. It was then decided 
to employ all the available British aeroplanes to help the 

' It was known later that the Austrian command took great precautions 
to conceal their intentions. Chiefly, the attacking divisions were kept well 
behind the lines and were only sent forward into their battle positions 
early on the morning of the attack. The tactics adopted were similar to 
those employed by the Germans in connexion with their counter-attack 
at Cambrai on the 30th of November 1917. 

284 THE ITALIAN FRONT [ch. vii 

Italian Army. At 4 p.m., for example, there were thirty- 
three Sopwith 'Camels' supplementing the work of the 
Italian air service by attacks on bridges, rafts, boats, and 
Austrian troops in the Piave sector. Captain W. G. Barker 
of No. 66 Squadron, who took part in the attacks, has 
recorded : *The Austrians had been successful against the 
Italians. They had succeeded in crossing the Piave oppo- 
site the Montello. The Montello, owing to its height, 
dominated the Venetian plain and under its cover they 
had thrown two pontoon bridges across the river. The 
leader selected the bridge farthest upstream and individual 
bombing commenced from about 50 feet. This bridge 
was quickly broken in two places and the pontoons, caught 
by the fast current, were immediately dashed against the 
lower bridge, carrying it away also. When this attack 
commenced these bridges were crowded with troops which 
were attacked with machine-gun fire. Many were seen 
to be in the water. This done, troops on small islands and 
in row boats were machine-gunned'. . . . 

About 6 p.m. on the 15th, in another series of attacks, 
some 3,000 Austrian troops were caught on the river's 
edge in the process of embarking in boats: bombs were 
dropped among them and they were afterwards attacked 
with machine-gun fire. In all 350 bombs of 20-lb. weight 
were dropped during the day in an attempt to stem the 
advance on the Piave front. It has been said that this 
prompt voluntary action on the part of the Royal Air 
Force, doubly valuable because it was made early, prevented 
a second disaster comparable with what had happened at 
Caporetto. This is going too far. What is certain, how- 
ever, is that the bombing of the bridges, and the dis- 
organization among the Austrian troops resulting from the 
attacks made by the Italian airmen and by the Royal Air 
Force, imposed delays in the initial stages of the advance 
which appreciably prejudiced the chances of success for 
the enemy. 

Under cover of darkness on the I5th/i6th of June, the 
Austrian engineers made strenuous and successful efforts to 
bridge the river once more, and anti-aircraft guns were 
also brought up to protect the bridges. Throughout the 


1 6th the bombing and machine-gun attacks were continued, 
and about two tons weight of 20-lb. bombs were dropped. 
On the 17th there were clouds and rain which impeded the 
low-flying attacks. The bad weather, however, which had 
brought rain in the mountains for some days, proved of 
important value to the Italians. From a river of peaceful 
flow, the Piave was turned into a swirling torrent. In the 
mountain regions were felled trees, piled by the river 
banks, stored until the time should be favourable to float 
them downstream to market. Many of these were carried 
away and they were swept down from the upper reaches 
until they came to the bridges thrown across the river by 
the Austrians into which they crashed. Most of the damage 
was done on the morning of the i8th of June, and a British 
air observer who reconnoitred the river in the early after- 
noon reported that all the bridges had been swept away 
except two near San Dona di Piave: two other bridges 
were nearing completion. 

The Italian counter-attack began, and led to desperate 
fighting, but by the 20th the Austrian troops were being 
slowly but relentlessly pushed back towards the Piave. On 
the 22nd, General von Boroevitch, in command of the 
enemy operations, issued orders for a general withdrawal 
across the river and, by the 24th, the situation, as it existed 
before the offensive began, had been restored. 

On the 23rd, when the Austrian withdrawal was in full 
progress, the whole Royal Air Force strength on the front 
was employed to help the Italian bombing squadrons to 
harass the retreating Austrian troops, as many as fifty 
British aeroplanes being engaged at one time (44 Sopwith 
'Camels' and six R.E.S's). 

The enemy effort had been an ambitious one. Austria 
had lost 20,000 prisoners and many guns, and the offensive 
power of the Austrian army had been definitely weakened. 
For the Italians the successful counter-attack marked 
an important victory. Caporetto had been avenged, and 
the morale of the Italian army and of the Italian people 
had been restored. The rupture of the Austrian bridge 
communications across the Piave was, we have seen, in the 
main an act of God, but on the critical opening day of the 

286 THE ITALIAN FRONT [ch. vii 

offensive the squadrons of the Royal Air Force had done 
much to hamper the free movement of the Austrian troops. 
An Austrian airman, shot down soon after the battle 
ended, had in his possession a cutting from a Vienna news- 
paper in which an Austrian correspondent had written of 
the early attempts to force the crossing of the Piave. His 
eyewitness account reads : 'Suddenly aeroplanes also appear. 
'They come silently down from a great height in far- 
'reaching volplanes. Now their motors hum again and 
'their machine-guns rattle. A hail of steel pelts down on 
'the pontoons, which sink riddled. The guns of the defence 
'bark from the bank and fragments of their shrapnel en- 
'danger the lives of their own men, men whom they wish 
'to protect. One, two, three of the great Caproni bom- 
'barding aeroplanes descend, shot down on the mud of the 
'Montello. A Nieuport comes down like a torch hurled 
'from Heaven — the famous pilot. Major Barracca, is a heap 
'of ashes. His list of victories is the same as that of his most 
'victorious Austrian adversary. Captain Broumousky, who 
'conquered 34 opponents. Lieutenant von Hoffman, in 
'peace time a Ministerial official in Vienna, and his band, 
'dash against the biplanes. Like raging bulldogs the Eng- 
'lish now advance on their furiously swift Sopwiths against 
'our airmen, engineers, artillery, and infantry. Nothing, 
'absolutely nothing, avails. The enemy pilots are too 
'numerous, the enemy's shells too many. Like Sisyphus 
'multiplied a hundredfold the bridge-builders work inces- 
'santly: they fall and disappear in the flood without a cry; 
'they launch new pontoons ; they think out new methods 
'of transport from bank to bank — nothing helps ; absolutely 
'nothing avails. Six times are the bridges and footways 
'completed, six times are they destroyed.' 

In July there was quiet on the British front, but there 
was some co-operation between the Royal Air Force and 
the Italian air service. On the 2nd of July the Italian Third 
Army began an offensive action against the Austrians at 
the mouth of the Piave, and after four days' fighting 
gained its limited objectives. Because the Italians were 
short of aeroplanes and trained personnel a few British 


R.E.S's were flown daily to the aerodrome at Malcon- 
tenta, and they worked from there under the orders of the 
ItaHans, mainly in co-operation with the artillery for 
which Italian air observers were flown : protection for the 
R.E.S's was provided by offensive patrols of Sopwith 
^Camels'. The special co-operation ended on the loth of 
July, but on the following day R.E.S's of No. 34 Squadron 
began to help the Italian Fourth Army in the Grappa 
sector. This help, because of the shortage of Italian aero- 
planes, continued to be given to the Italian Fourth Army 
until September. 

There were occasional bombing attacks on Austrian 
dumps, &c., in July and August, and there was some desul- 
tory, but often intense air fighting in which the Austrian 
pilots fought courageously, though with a consistent lack of 
success. On the nth of August Sopwith 'Camels' of No. 
2S Squadron, while bombing hutments, &c., in the Val 
d'Assa, exploded an ammunition dump. On the 31st of 
August a patrol of six enemy fighters crossed the British 
lines and was intercepted by three Sopwith 'Camels' of No. 
45 Squadron, led by Captain J. Cottle. There was a sharp 
fight in which the Austrian pilots were outmatched, except 
in courage, and all six enemy fighters were shot down, five 
of them falling within the Allied lines : the Sopwith 'Camels' 
suffered no hurt. The reports of much of the fighting 
which took place in the air at this time are similarly 
one-sided, and the above episode is given not because it 
was exceptional in kind, but because the fight took place 
on the Allied side of the lines and there could be no ques- 
tion, therefore, about the result : it usually happened that 
the victims of the British pilots fell in Austrian territory 
and confirmation of a victory was often impossible to 
obtain. There was an occasion, on the 8th of August, 
when four Bristol Fighters of No. 139 Squadron, while 
on a routine reconnaissance, flew over the aerodrome at 
Pergine and were engaged by three Albatros fighters 
which were patrolHng the area. The Bristol Fighter pilots 
destroyed two of the enemy aeroplanes in flames, but the 
third escaped. It was afterwards known that the combat 
took place while the Emperor Carl was paying a visit of 

288 THE ITALIAN FRONT [ch. vii 

inspection to the aerodrome, and that the Albatros fighters 
had been ordered to fly on protective patrol while the 
inspection was in progress. 

In September a part of the British force was withdrawn 
from Italy to France, including No. 45 Squadron which 
left on the 20th and joined the Independent Force. The 
weather was often bad during the month, and such air 
operations as took place were of a routine kind. 

At the beginning of October there were attacks of some 
interest on two Austrian flying training schools. One of 
these schools was at Campoformido, south-west of Udine, 
and it had been started to give a 'refresher' course to 
pilots whose flying on the front was deemed to be unsatis- 
factory : the school was expanded as a centre of advanced 
instruction also for observers, mechanics, and wireless 
operators. The second school was at Egna, south of Bol- 
zano, where pilots received advanced training on service 
type aeroplanes. Campoformido was bombed by twenty- 
three Sopwith 'Camels' of Nos. 28 and 66 Squadrons, with 
three others as escorts, on the 4th of October. Ten 40-lb. 
phosphorous and seventy-seven 20-lb. bombs were dropped, 
and twenty-two hits were scored on the hangars and sheds. 
It was afterv^^ards known that, in addition to miscellaneous 
stores, two hangars were demolished with ten new aero- 
planes : three enemy fighters were also destroyed in combat. 
The flying school at Egna was attacked on the 5 th of October 
by twenty- two Sopwith 'Camels' with twenty 40-lb. phos- 
phorous bombs and forty- two of 20-lb. weight. A shed and 
hangars were burnt and some of the bombs, which were 
dropped from heights under 500 feet, exploded among 
aeroplanes lined up on the landing-ground. The Austrian 
aerodrome at Pergine was bombed by Bristol Fighters of 
No. 139 Squadron on the 7th of October. 

7 he Battle of Vittorio Veneto 

In October, General Diaz, the Italian Commander-in- 
Chief, was ready to strike a final blow at the Austrian 
armies, by which he was moderately outnumbered. He had 
at his disposal fifty-one Italian divisions, three British, two 


French, one Czecho-Slovak, and also an American regiment. 
For the offensive Lord Cavan was entrusted with the com- 
mand of the Tenth Army made up of the ItaHan XI Corps 
and the British XIV Corps (7th and 23rd Divisions). The 
British 48th Division remained in position on the Asiago 
plateau because it was desired to make as little change as 
possible in order to preserve secrecy, and it was incor- 
porated temporarily in the XII Corps of the Italian Sixth 

At a conference on the 13th of October, General Diaz 
outlined his plan. His intention was that the Italian Tenth, 
Eighth, and Twelfth Armies should force the crossing of 
the Piave and advance to drive a wedge between the Aus- 
trian Fifth and Sixth Armies, and cut the communications 
between the Austrian forces in the mountains and those in 
the plains. The battle was to begin with a feint attack in 
the Grappa sector by the Italian Fourth Army. The task 
allotted to Lord Cavan's Tenth Army was to reach the 
Livenza between Portobuffole and Sacile in order to pro- 
tect the flanks of the Eighth and Twelfth Armies in their 
northward advance. The British 7th and 23rd Divisions 
took over a part of the front from the Italian XI Corps, 
stretching from Salettuol to Palazzon, on the 21st of 
October. The British troops in the forward area wore 
Italian uniforms, and orders were given that no British 
guns were to fire before the general bombardment began. 
By these precautions it was hoped to conceal from the Aus- 
trians the presence of British troops in the Piave sector. 

Before the British movements began the units of the 
Royal Air Force were concentrated in the Asiago area.^ 
There was, however, no hurry to transfer these units to 
the Piave front because it was undesirable to show expan- 
sions on the aerodromes in that area. No. 33 Kite Balloon 
Section was withdrawn from the mountains to Grossa on 
the 2nd of October, and No. 139 Squadron moved to the 

^ At the beginning of October the units of the Royal Air Force were 
disposed as follows: Fourteenth Wing head-quarters and No. 28 Squadron, 
Sarcedo; Nos. 34 and 139 Squadrons, Villaverla; No. d^, S. Pietro in Gu 
(C. Piazza); No. 7 Kite Balloon Section, M. Cavalletto; No. 3 Kite 
Balloon Section, M. Mazze. 

2504.6 TT 

290 THE ITALIAN FRONT [ch. vii 

same place a week later. The Fourteenth Wing head- 
quarters took up new quarters in the Villa Margherita, north 
of Treviso, on the 19th of October, and No. 7 Kite Balloon 
Section went to Villorba on the following day. The Allied 
offensive was originally timed for the 25th of October, and 
No. 34 Squadron was transferred to S. Luca aerodrome, 
north of Istrana, and No. 28 Squadron to Limbraga, on the 
22nd. At the same time the Fourteenth Wing head-quarters 
vacated the Villa Margherita and moved to Dosson. 

There had been heavy rains which brought flood waters 
down the Piave, and the date of the attack was put back 
two days, to the 27th. The bombardment began on the 
evening of the 26th, and there was again a downpour all 
night which augured ill for the offensive, but on the morn- 
ing of the 27th the skies cleared and they continued clear 
until the end. 

The Piave, on the front of attack, was about one and a 
half miles wide, made up of many channels dotted with 
islands. The biggest of these. Grave di Papadopoli, three 
miles long and a mile broad, had been partly captured in 
the night of the 23rd/24th as a preliminary to the main 
attack, and the occupation had been completed two nights 
later. With this island in Allied possession the task of 
bridging the Piave had been made incomparably easier. 

Mainly because of the need for secrecy, but partly also 
on account of the bad weather, there had been little flying 
by the Royal Air Force squadrons over the front of the 
attack before the offensive was launched. No photographs 
of the Piave sector were available, and No. 139 Squadron 
was given a programme of photography to cover the corps 
front. Attempts were made to comply with the orders, 
but until the 22nd the weather was unfavourable. On 
that day the whole corps area was covered, and the 
photographic section of the squadron, working at high 
pressure through the night, made 5,000 prints which, to 
save time, were distributed direct to the formations con- 
cerned. Although the orders were that no R.E.S's must 
appear over the Piave front before the battle, it was 
desirable that the pilots and observers in the contact 
patrol Flight of No. 34 Squadron, who would be required 


to keep close touch with the battle, should have knowledge 
of the ground. This they obtained by making use of two 
Bristol Fighters borrowed from No. 139 Squadron. It 
was arranged that, once the advance began, the contact 
patrol observers should, as necessary, call upon the Italian 
troops, as well as upon the British, to display flares or 
ground strips, and the observers were to drop messages for 
the Italian report centres. The Italian flying personnel, 
engaged on similar work of co-operation, could likewise 
call upon British troops to show flares. 

The Tenth Army attacked at 6.45 a.m. on Sunday the 
27th of October. Contact patrol messages received during 
the day showed the British troops across the Piave and 
pushing forward to their final objectives. A message flashed 
by panel from the ground from a party of British forward 
troops in the morning stated that they were short of am- 
munition, and six R.E.S's of No. 34 Squadron subsequently 
dropped 5,000 rounds of small arms ammunition in sacks 
attached to parachutes: it was seen that the sacks were 
recovered by the men. Enemy pilots were very active all 
day: in particular, they attacked the bridges across the 
Piave and the troops crowded in their neighbourhood. 
The bridge at Salettuol was shelled as well as bombed, 
but although there were appreciable casualties the bridge 
remained intact. Six of the aeroplanes of No. 34 Squadron 
were fiercely attacked at dififerent times while co-operating 
with the British artillery or the infantry, and as a result 
the commanders of the two artillery Flights of the squadron 
were lost, one missing and the other wounded. By special 
arrangement nine Sopwith 'Camels', in patrols of three, 
had attacked the enemy kite balloons shortly after the 
offensive opened : three of the enemy balloons had fallen 
in flames. Pilots of the Sopwith 'Camel' squadron had 
been instructed also to watch for troop movements to and 
from the front at specified places and times throughout the 
day, and to make low-flying attacks as opportunity offered : 
many more targets were presented than the fighters could 
attack. An attempt was made to destroy a bridge over the 
Monticano river near Vazzola, but the bombs missed and, 
as it happened, it was well they did because British cavalry 

292 THE ITALIAN FRONT [ch. vii 

on the 29th surprised the Austrian garrison at the bridge, 
which was taken intact. 

On the 28th the Alhed advance continued, and it was 
reported in some detail by the aeroplanes of No. 34 
Squadron. The fighter pilots were mostly employed in 
attacks on the Austrian columns in retreat along the main 
roads. On the 29th the Austrians resisted on the line of 
the Monticano, but the air observers reported an increase 
in the density of the retreating columns, and by the follow- 
ing day the retreat had become a rout, which ended on the 
4th of November when an armistice came into effect. 

As soon as the Austrian resistance had begun to crumble, 
the main concern of the squadrons had been to help shatter 
the enemy morale through bombing and machine-gun 
attacks. It was neither possible nor necessary for the corps 
squadrons to give detailed information about the final 
stages of the advance. So-called 'situation' flights were 
made by which the broad movements were reported. Nos. 
28, 66, and 139 Squadrons were engaged almost to the full 
extent of their energies on low-flying attacks, supplement- 
ing the intensive bombing by the Italian air service.^ The 
enemy aerodromes were over-run and there was increasing 
chaos along the lines of communication, with the result 
that opposition in the air ceased as soon as the rout began. 
In the few final days the one concern of the fighter pilots 
was to make a maximum number of journeys to attack 
the plentiful ground targets: it was all attack and no 
defence, terrible, but mercifully short. 

^ In the final advance the Royal Air Force squadrons dropped 20,000-lb. 
weight of bombs and fired 51,000 rounds of ammunition from low heights, 
at a cost of seven aeroplanes missing. 



Final Air Operations, igi8 

[Map, facing] 

It will be recalled^ that in September 191 7 the Com- 
mander-in-Chief of the British Salonika force had urged 
the War Office to increase the air strength at his disposal 
by sending bombers and up-to-date fighters to enable him 
to extend his air operations. 'I am anxious', he had said, 'to 
'widen the scope of the offensive measures undertaken by 
'the Flying Corps, the more so as the size of my force pre- 
'cludes any other method of making our presence really 
'felt in this country.' The response had not been en- 
couraging. The War Office sent a few S.E.5a fighters in 
December 1917, but it was not until the spring of 1918 
that enough had been received to bring about a change 
in the general air position. 

With the formation of a fighting squadron, No. 150, in 
April 191 8, air superiority passed to the British, and it was 
retained until the end of hostilities. No. 150 Squadron 
began with one Flight from each of Nos. 17 and 47 
Squadrons, actually transferred on the 26th of April : the 
third Flight was formed independently on the 7th of 
May. The two original Flights took with them S.E.5a's 
and Bristol monoplanes, but the third Flight was equipped 
with Sopwith 'Camels'. 2 

The first of the bombers for which Lieut enant-General 
Sir G. F. Milne had asked were not received until August 
1 91 8, nearly a year after the request had been made. On 
the 2ist of August No. 47 Squadron, which had worked 
with only two FHghts of Armstrong- Whitworth's since 
the transfer of a Flight to No. 150 Squadron in April, was 
brought up to strength with the formation of a Flight of 
D.H.9 aeroplanes. 3 No. 17 Squadron worked with two 

1 Vol. V, p. 362. 

2 The strength of the squadron at the Armistice was 9 S.E.5a's, 7 
Sopwith 'Camels', i Bristol monoplane, and i B.E.12. 

3 At the Armistice No. 47 Squadron had 10 Armstrong-Whitworths 

294 MACEDONIA [ch. viii 

Flights until the 14th of June, when a third Flight was 
formed, but the squadron remained under strength until 
September, when a Flight of D.H.9's arrived as reinforce-, 

During the summer of 191 8, therefore, the two corps 
squadrons were not up to establishment, but the few up- 
to-date fighters of No. 150 Squadron so dominated the 
enemy air service that Nos. 17 and 47 Squadrons were 
enabled to increase their offensive bombing activities, 
in which they were helped from time to time by naval 
air detachments stationed at Thasos and Stavros. The 
two-seaters of Nos. 17 and 47 Squadrons, other than 
the D.H.9's, could be employed for bombing only if the 
observers were left behind, and protection was therefore 
provided by fighting escorts from No. 150 Squadron. 

Notable bombing targets were the aerodromes at Hudova, 
behind the Dojran front, and at Drama on the Struma 
front. On the morning of the 8th of May, as an example, 
twenty aeroplanes from Nos. 17 and 47 Squadrons, escorted 
by fighters from No. 150 Squadron, bombed Drama. 
Eighteen of the same bombers attacked the aerodrome again 
in the afternoon, and sixteen naval aircraft also bombed 
the same target during the day: damage was done to 
hangars and to aeroplanes on the ground. 

On the 13th of May ten aeroplanes from the detach- 
ment working at Thasos, under the orders of the Rear- 
Admiral, Aegean, flew to Marian aerodrome for two days' 
work in co-operation with Nos. 17 and 47 Squadrons. On 
the journey to Marian the naval bombers made a diversion 
to attack an enemy dump at Chepeldze, and after taking 
on a new load of bombs at Marian they attacked the 
dump at Marinopolje station, which had been previously 
bombed by fourteen aeroplanes from Nos. 17, 47, and 150 
Squadrons. Next day the main targets were the dumps at 
Livunovo and Kakara, and the station at Demir Hisar, all 
squadrons taking part, after which the naval aeroplanes 

and 6 D.H.9's. Major F. A. Bates had succeeded Major G. D. Gardner in 
command of the squadron on the 1st of August. 

^ At the Armistice No. 17 Squadron had 9 Armstrong-Whitworths, 
6 D.H.9's, and i B.E.12. 


flew back to their base at Thasos. On the 23rd of May six- 
teen aeroplanes from Nos. 1 7 and 47 Squadrons, escorted by 
eleven fighters from No. 150 Squadron, dropped i J tons of 
bombs on the aerodrome at Hudova on the Dojran front. 
Such bombing as that instanced above was in pursuance 
of Lieutenant-General Milne's wish to strike at the enemy 
through the only medium open to him. At the end of 
May, however, there were bombing attacks which aimed at 
helping Allied military operations west of the Vardar. 
General Guillaumat, Commander-in-Chief of the Allied 
Armies of the East, was planning an offensive on the Mace- 
donian front, and by way of rehearsal, and with the further 
object of testing the quality of the Greek troops under his 
orders, he decided to capture about eight miles of front 
trench system, from north-east of Ljumnica to north of 
the village of Lunzi. To keep the enemy in doubt about 
the place of attack, artillery bombardments and raids 
were variously made by the French, the British, and by 
the Serbs. The British began with a bombardment on the 
front of the 22nd Division on the 28th of May, and the 
fire was extended to the front of the 26th Division next 
day. On the 29th, when the 7th South Wales Borderers 
made a raid on the Dojran front, ten aeroplanes, with an 
escort of eleven fighters, bombed the station, dump, and 
aerodrome at Hudova. On the same day an aeroplane 
observed for the fire of the 424th Siege Battery (8-inch 
howitzers) which had been loaned to the French for direct 
support on the main front. At 4.55 a.m. on the 30th of 
May the Greek infantry began their attack, and not long 
after they had started ten Royal Air Force aeroplanes again 
bombed Hudova, the objective being the aerodrome, where 
hangars were damaged and a petrol dump set on fire : these 
air attacks were part of the British activity to divert the 
attention of the enemy. The whole action was brilliantly 
executed, the enemy was taken by surprise, and the Allied 
troops captured all their objectives on the 30th of May, 
together with 1,812 prisoners. The victory, although a 
minor one, caused elation in Greece, where it helped to 
consolidate the position of M. Venizelos and to cement 
the unity of the Greek army. 

296 MACEDONIA [ch. viii 

From May onwards there were important changes in 
the dispositions of the British troops as a result of the 
taking over of a part of the Struma front by Greek divisions. 
The situation from the sea to the Vardar about the middle 
of July, when the movements had been completed, was as 
shown in the sketch, facing. While the moves were being 
made there were indications that the Bulgarians were pre- 
paring an offensive. Early in June air reconnaissance reports 
showed that Bulgar ammunition dumps behind the Dojran 
front had increased in size, as had camps and dumps in 
the Strumica valley. Furthermore, although enemy aero- 
dromes appeared unchanged, there was more activity in 
the air than for some weeks, and many combats resulted. 
The signs that the Bulgars might be preparing an attack 
were confirmed from an unexpected quarter. Towards the 
middle of June deserters began to cross to the British lines 
in unusual numbers, and they brought with them the same 
story — that they had surrendered to avoid taking part in 
a battle which was about to take place between lakes Dojran 
and Tahinos. Lieutenant-General Sir C. J. Briggs, com- 
manding the XVI Corps, with the approval of Lieutenant- 
General Milne, took full precautionary measures, but on 
the 17th of June newly arrived deserters gave the in- 
formation that the attack, which had apparently been 
planned to coincide with the Austrian offensive on the 
Piave on the 15th of June, had had to be cancelled on 
account of a mutiny among the Bulgar soldiers. As soon 
as it was clear that there would be no enemy attack relief 
movements on the British front were resumed. 

Meanwhile, the French General Guillaumat had been 
suddenly recalled to an appointment in France, and he 
was succeeded as Allied Commander-in-Chief by General 
Franchet d'Esperey, who formally took over on the i8th 
of June. Both generals were representative of the military 
genius of their country. Quiet, courteous, incisive, cautious 
in preparation, but swift and bold in action, each in his turn 
inspired confidence in the Allied armies on the Salonika 
front, and each contributed a share to the shaping of the 
final plan by which the enemy armies in Macedonia were 









-2 -^ 



A change of command of the Royal Air Force is also 
to be noted. On the 19th of June Lieutenant-Colonel 
G. E. Todd succeeded Lieutenant-Colonel G. W. P. 
Dawes in command of the Sixteenth Wing. 

During July and August there were no important opera- 
tions on the ground, but the air squadrons did not cease 
from their bombing attacks, usually made by twenty or 
more aeroplanes at a time, on aerodromes, railheads, and 
dumps. In August the work of co-operation with the 
artillery gradually increased in volume, and the squadrons 
were also called upon to extend their photography of 
enemy territory. The reason for this expansion of the work 
of co-operation was the impending Allied offensive, des- 
tined to be the beginning of the end of hostilities. The 
authorities in England had, from the inception of the 
Salonika campaign, set their faces against a major offensive 
in the Balkans, and the strength of the British army in 
Macedonia had consequently never exceeded what was 
necessary to maintain a defensive role. How the Salonika 
front came to be the scene of the first decisive cam- 
paign of the war makes curious and interesting reading, 
for which the student is referred to the official military 
history of the campaign.^ Although everything was ready, 
it was not certain until the loth of September that the 
Allied Governments would agree to the offensive. On that 
day, however. General Franchet d'Esperey received a 
telegram sent by Monsieur Clemenceau in Paris to inform 
him that full agreement had at last been reached and that 
he was authorized to begin the Salonika operations when 
judged desirable. 

General Milne, when expressing to the British War 
Office his adherence to the plans for the Allied offensive, 
had stated that success on the front allotted to the 
British army was unlikely if he did not receive necessary 
reinforcements. His demands were modest. He asked 
only for sufficient additional personnel to bring his units 
up to strength, and for a small reinforcement of artillery. 
He would, however, require a considerable increase of 

' Military Operations, Macedonia, by Captain Cyril Falls, vol. ii, 
ch. vi. 

298 MACEDONIA [ch. viii 

ammunition, in particular of chemical shell. He was weak 
in heavy artillery for counter-battery work and it was his 
opinion that this weakness could best be mitigated through 
the employment of gas shell by which the enemy batteries, 
many of them sunk in elaborate concrete emplacements, 
might be neutralized. Finally, he stood in urgent need of 
spare parts for his mechanical transport, and of motor 
tyres and inner tubes. In the result the British Com- 
mander-in-Chief received only a modicum of what he 
asked for. What happened was that the British authorities 
'at home gave their approval to the attack but did not 
'supply the means which he declared to be necessary.'^ 

The task of the British Salonika army in the final offen- 
sive, difficult enough, was made more difficult by the failure 
to send the reinforcements and equipment judged by the 
British Commander-in-Chief to be essential. The anxieties 
of General Milne are sympathetically set out in the 
official military history and it would be out of place here 
to make further reference to the subject. What is of par- 
ticular interest, however, is that those anxieties derived 
in some measure from the activities of German bombing 
squadrons on the Western front. On the night of the nth 
of August 1918 German bombers destroyed No. 2 Base 
Mechanical Transport Depot at Calais, and the spare parts, 
tyres, and inner tubes for a majority of the British trans- 
port vehicles in service on the Western front became ashes. ^ 
The situation which resulted called for exceptional remedial 
measures, and indeed the disaster was on a scale which pre- 
cluded any early possibility of attention to the wants, no 
matter how serious or urgent, of outside theatres of war. 

How far the German bombers were also responsible for 
the shortage of shells on the Macedonian front cannot be 
exactly determined. Between the 19th and 22nd of May 
191 8, however, the bombers had destroyed more than 
12,000 tons of ammunition as a result of successful attacks 
on two British main ordnance depots on the Western 
front. 3 This did not lead to a real shortage of ammunition 
in France, but the German success brought home to the 

^ Military Operations , Macedonia, vol. ii, p. 113. 
^ See pp. 429-31. 3 See pp. 423-5. 


authorities the undue vulnerabihty of the ammunition 
depots, and, until steps taken to reduce this vulnerabiHty 
should become effective, anxiety about the supply of 
ammunition to the Western front could not be allayed. 
The least that may be said is that General Milne's request 
would have received timely and more favourable considera- 
tion if the enforced pre-occupationof thehome authorities 
v^ith the ammunition needs of the armies in France had not 
existed. That air activity in northern France should have 
some effect upon military plans in Macedonia affords a 
striking example of the far-reaching results obtainable 
from successful bombing operations, 'provided the targets 
are well chosen. 

In the offensive plan adopted by General Franchet 
d'Esperey the main role v^as allotted to the Serbian armies. 
The reader may the more easily appreciate the essence of 
the plan if he refers to the sketch, facing. The key point v^as 
Gradsko, situated at the junction of the Crna with the 
Vardar, and some thirty-five miles from the front line. 
If Gradsko could be rapidly taken the chief lines of the 
Bulgarian communications would be cut or threatened, the 
enemy forces would be divided, and the way would be 
opened for a decisive exploitation of the break-through. 
To advance against Gradsko along the narrow and difficult 
Vardar valley would be to attack the enemy where he was 
strongest, and where the chances of success, certainly of 
an early success, were remote. General Franchet d'Esperey 
therefore decided to attack from the mountains of the 
Moglena between the Crna and the Vardar, a formidable 
starting-point. On the chosen sector the Bulgars were 
holding forward positions which appeared to be impreg- 
nable, but if these could be carried by surprise in one rush 
the Serbian troops, fighting-fit and elated, would sub- 
sequently be hard to stop, more particularly if the enemy 
reserves could be pinned down on the remainder of the 

The first of the secondary attacks which were to follow 
the main assault was to be made under the orders of 
General Milne against the Bulgar entrenched system on 
the high ground between Lake Dojran and the Vardar. 

300 MACEDONIA [ch. viii 

The group of divisions immediately west of the Vardar 
was to Hnk the main Serbian attack with that at Dojran. 
The opposing forces along the whole front were approxi- 
mately equal in strength, with the exception that the 
Allied armies had great superiority in aircraft, a total of 
about 200 aeroplanes against 80. 

A preliminary operation on the British front, to make the 
enemy believe that a thrust up the Vardar valley was con- 
templated, took place on the ist of September. The objec- 
tive was a forward Bulgar position west of the river known 
as the Roche Noire salient, and the attack, which was 
reported by air contact patrol observers and proved en- 
tirely successful, was made by two battalions of the 27th 
Division at 5.30 p.m. At the moment when the infantry 
were launched four aeroplanes each dropped eight 20-lb. 
bombs on a regimental head-quarters in the village of 
Gevgeli, and each pilot subsequently fired a few hundred 
rounds of machine-gun ammunition at ground targets. 
One of the aeroplanes (pilot. Captain J. B. Walmsley; 
observer. Lieutenant R. D. de Pass) was struck by a bullet 
which exploded a box of Very lights alongside the pilot 
and set his coat alight. Under the impression that the 
aeroplane had caught fire the pilot spun earthwards, but 
his observer seized the extinguisher and put out the flames. 
The pilot thereupon came out of the spin and turned for 
home at a height of 500 feet, but he had not gone far when 
a tracer bullet hit the engine, which took fire. The observer 
played on the flames with the extinguisher while the aero- 
plane was piloted to the nearby aerodrome at Gorgop, 
where French mechanics finally overcame the fire with 

The British military and air activity brought out patrols 
of German fighting aircraft, but the combats which ensued 
were indecisive. For a day or two the enemy pilots con- 
tinued to show them.selves rather more than they had done 
for some time past. On the 3rd of September a formation 
of six fighters attacked a Royal Air Force photographic 
aeroplane and its Bristol monoplane escort near Lake 
Dojran. The monoplane was shot down into the lake, and 
the last that was seen of its pilot, Lieutenant J. P. Cavers, 

i9i8] BOMBARDMENT 301 

was when he was struggling in the water clear of his aero- 
plane under fire from the German aircraft : the reconnais- 
sance aeroplane escaped. The final stages of the combat 
were witnessed by the pilots of four S.E.5a's as they were 
making their way home from escorting bombers during an 
attack on Miletkovo. The S.E.5a's, which were joined by 
two Sopwith 'Camels', dived on the Germans from 13,000 
feet, and a general fight took place about 500 feet from the 
ground with the result that four of the enemy aeroplanes 
were destroyed. One British pilot pursued his quarry many 
miles behind the Bulgar lines and his final burst of fire, 
which caused the German aeroplane to crash, was aimed 
from a few dozen feet above the ground. 

In preparation for the opening of the great offensive the 
work of the co-operating squadrons was mainly to help 
the artillery to register targets, and also photography of the 
enemy positions. The arrival of D.H.9 aeroplanes made 
extended reconnaissances possible, and it may be assumed 
that the passage of Royal Air Force aircraft a hundred 
miles or so from the front, over places where they had 
never before been seen, impressed the enemy people in 
a way which made them readier to throw their hand in 
after the Allied offensive had broken the defence lines. 
The D.H.g's set out on journeys which totalled as much 
as 300 miles, and photographs were taken of such distant 
centres as Kyustendil and Radomir. It is of interest that the 
latter town, no more than twenty miles south-west of Sofia, 
proclaimed a republic before the month had ended, and sent 
its menfolk, 6,000 or so strong, marching upon the capital. 

The artillery bombardment, of great intensity, which 
preceded the Franco-Serbian assault on the main front, 
began at 8 a.m. on the 14th of September, and through 
the long day the mountains echoed and re-echoed with a 
thunder they had never known. At 5.30 a.m. on the 15th 
the assaulting divisions, French and Serbian, making up 
the Serbian Second Army, jumped from their trenches to 
begin the advance. Behind them were the supporting 
Serbian divisions, and on their left were the troops of the 
Serbian First Army, waiting for the right moment to inter- 
vene. Lean, skilful, steel-hard, fired and fortified by the 




conviction that they were about to free their country from 
the invader, the assaulting Serbs stormed the steep hill- 
sides and won the whole of the Bulgar first line. The 
French were held for a time, but early on the 1 6th they, 
too, had completed their gains, and the front of attack was 
thereupon enlarged as planned. The advance made on the 
1 6th took the troops forward an additional five miles, 
through the enemy second line of trenches, and by the end 
of the following day the attackers had progressed twenty 
miles from their starting-off places : the way to victory had 
been opened. 

The attack on the British front began on the i8th of 
September. West of Lake Dojran were the British 26th 
and 22nd Divisions, the Greek Seres Division, and a French 
regiment, making up the XII Corps under Lieutenant- 
General Sir H. F. M. Wilson. East of the lake was the 
Crete Division and the British 28th Division under the 
XVI Corps commander, Lieutenant-General Sir C. F. 
Briggs. The order of battle of the Royal Air Force units 
on the morning of the 18th of September was as follows: 

Sixteenth Wing Head-quarters ..... Salonika 
(Lieutenant-Colonel G. E. Todd) 

Advanced Head-quarters ..... Yanesh 

No. ly Squadron (Major S. G. Hodges) 

Head-quarters and 'C Flight Lahana 

(Armstrong- Whitworths) 

*A' and 'B' Flights Amberkoj 

(Armstrong- Whitworths and D.H.9's) 

No. 4y Squadron (Major F. A. Bates) 

Head-quarters and 'C Flight ..... Yanesh 

(Armstrong- Whitworths) 
'A' and 'B' Flights Hajdarh 

(Armstrong- Whitworths and D.H.9's) 

No. 150 Squadron (Major W. R. B. McBain) 
Head-quarters and 'B' and 'C Flights .... Kirech 

(S.E.5a's and Sopwith 'Camels') 
'A' Flight Marian 


No. 22 Balloon Company (Captain J. Y. McLean) 
26 Balloon Section ...... 


Aircraft Park (Major C. H. A. Hirtzel) 




The orders were that 'C FHght of No. 47 Squadron 
would be responsible for artillery work, while 'B' Flight 
undertook contact patrol and close reconnaissance duties, 
all for the XII Corps; 'C Flight of No. 17 Squadron was 
to work similarly for the XVI Corps, using the former 
aerodrome of No. 47 Squadron at Snevche as required. 
Protection for these co-operating aeroplanes was to be 
provided by fighters from No. 150 Squadron. 'A' and 'B' 
Flights of No. 17 Squadron were to be ready to answer 
calls from either of the two British corps for bombing and 
machine-gun attacks within four miles of the front, and 
'A' Flight of No. 47 Squadron was to be responsible for 
strategical reconnaissance, and for bombing beyond the 
four-mile limit. No. 26 Balloon Section was at the dis- 
posal of the XVI Corps, and No. 27 Section at that of the 
XII Corps. 

Meanwhile special preliminary air operations had begun 
on the 14th of September coincident with the opening of 
the bombardment on the main Franco-Serbian front of 
attack. On this day five aeroplanes bombed Hudova aero- 
drome, next day six attacked the station at Demir Kapija, 
and on the i6th five bombers again attacked Hudova 
aerodrome and dump. These attacks were on a small scale, 
but as their object was to help rivet the attention of 
the Bulgarians to the Dojran front there would have been 
little point in risking more aeroplanes than judged strictly 
essential, especially in view of the arduous work which 
lay ahead once the battle began. On the 17th, the eve 
of the battle on the British front, what little activity 
there was in the air was mostly confined to flights in co- 
operation with batteries engaged on registration. 

The infantry attack on the Vardar-Dojran front was 
launched at 5.8 a.m. on the i8th of September. A distin- 
guished French general who inspected the battle-field after 
hostilities had ended described it as the 'most terrible' 
position to assault which he had ever seen, and the author 
of this history, who knew the greater part of the Mace- 
donian front as it appeared from the air, can testify that the 
Vardar-Dojran sector stood out as the most intricately 
formidable part of the Bulgarian line. Had the spirit of 

304 MACEDONIA [ch. viii 

the Bulgar troops defending the front been weakened by- 
news of the happenings west of the Vardar the assauh would 
have had chances of success. Those troops, however, if 
they had knowledge of the real extent of the Franco- 
Serbian victory, which is doubtful, were unaffected. Their 
confidence, discipline, and skill were revealed as unim- 
paired. Nevertheless, the Greeks, who fought well, cap- 
tured the foremost position and the intermediate position 
from Dojran Hill to Hill 340, while the 22nd Division took 
the enemy front work, known as 0.6, on the 19th when 
the attack was renewed. No further ground was won. 
Although the attacks had failed of their immediate aim, 
which was to 'gain possession of the "P" ridge and the 
'neighbouring high ground, and to exploit this success by 
'all available means', they had achieved the object of pinning 
down the strong enemy concentration between the Vardar 
and Lake Dojran, and they had compelled the Bulgars to 
engage their local reserves. It has sometimes been said 
that an attack on a smaller scale would have had the same 
result, but, in the words of the military historian, 'the Bul- 
'garians, with their excellent observation posts, were in a 
'position to distinguish at once between a demonstration 
'and a genuine attack'.^ 

During the two days' fighting the aeroplanes did what 
was necessary in the way of reporting upon the movements 
of the attacking infantry and of the enemy, but the nature 
of the struggle was such that their chief usefulness was 
to indicate the positions of the active enemy batteries. 
Altogether 151 wireless calls for fire upon hostile guns were 
sent down from the air on the i8th, and 121 on the 19th, 
and many of the calls received adequate response. Owing 
to the smoke and the dust of the barrage fire the air observers 
could obtain their information, whether of the progress of 
the battle or about active hostile guns, only by flying near 
the ground, often below the line of the observation posts 
on the Grand Couronne and 'P' ridge. All the aeroplanes 
were hit by shell splinters or by bullets, but the wonder is 
that no more than one fell on the battle-field: it was 
directly hit by a shell and crashed in flames. 
^ Falls, Macedonia^ vol. ii, p. 163. 


On both days there were bombing and low flying attacks 
with machine-gun fire in the immediate battle area, notably 
about the Grand Couronn^, and bombing attacks on dumps 
behind the front. One D.H.9, fitted with wireless equip- 
ment which gave a range of about 1 00 miles, widely recon- 
noitred the Bulgar lines of communication in search of 
concentrations of troops or transport which might form 
suitable bombing targets: French bombers, using the 
British aerodrome at Yanesh, were ready to help those 
of the Royal Air Force as required. During the two days 
of the battle no exceptional bombing targets were re- 
ported, and the bombing attacks were therefore made on 
the dumps at Cerniste, Cestovo, Miletkovo, and Cinarli. 

Little was seen of hostile aeroplanes during the battle. 
On the morning of the i8th a patrol of four fighters pro- 
tecting the British contact patrol aeroplanes engaged five 
enemy single-seaters, which had others in support. Two 
of the hostile aeroplanes were sent down, and the remainder 
withdrew. This was the last encounter of its kind on the 
British Macedonian front: the enemy pilots henceforth 
left the air to the British. 

There was an adventure of an unusual kind on the 19th. 
Two volunteers were called for to land two British infantry 
agents behind the enemy lines. The pilots chosen were 
Lieutenants James Boyd (No. 47 Squadron) and W. J. 
Buchanan (No. 17 Squadron). The passengers were Lieu- 
tenant R. Lamb, Royal Scots Fusiliers, and an unnamed 
sergeant, and their task was to obtain information about 
enemy movements in certain areas. Flying a B.E.ze, Lieu- 
tenant Boyd landed at dusk near the river Stara about five 
miles north of Strumica, apparently unseen. In less than 
a minute his passenger. Lieutenant Lamb, had set out on 
his mission, and the aeroplane had taken off again. The 
second aeroplane, which was last seen by the escorting 
pilots to be flying low down in the darkness in some sort 
of trouble, did not return. 

The passengers who were landed carried four pigeons 
each, by which they were to communicate their informa- 
tion, but they had instructions that if capture appeared 
certain they were to release the pigeons without messages. 

2504.6 X 

3o6 MACEDONIA [ch. viii 

One had male pigeons, the other females, and on the 20th 
two of each sex returned with no messages. When the war 
had ended Lieutenant Buchanan was released from a 
prison at Philippopolis, and he related the story of his 
adventure. 'I left Yanesh aerodrome at 17.00 hours on the 
'19th September, 191 8, with a sergeant who was to be 
'landed near Petric, and crossed the enemy lines at 18.00 
'hours at about 11,000 to 12,000 feet. I circled over the 
'town of Petric several times and eventually selected a 
'suitable spot to land about four miles due north of the 
'town. I planed down and made a good landing in a field, 
'but unfortunately a party of German troops proceeding 
'along the Petric-Strumica road, whom I had not seen, 
'had apparently noticed my approach and taken cover 
'behind trees and hedges. As soon as I touched the ground 
'they immediately opened fire at about 600 yards to 700 
'yards range. My passenger at once got out of the machine 
'and ran off towards some bushes, pursued by a party of 
'Germans. I then got out of the machine myself and 
'started my engine, which had stopped on landing; I also 
'threw out the cage containing pigeons. I managed to 
'take off and climbed to about 3,000 feet when my engine 
'commenced to give trouble. I tried again and again to gain 
'height to enable me to clear the Beles mountains, but I was 
'obliged to descend and landed a second time, between 
'Petric andMarinopolje. My engine then suddenly "picked 
'up" and I again took off but could only reach 800 feet, at 
'which height I essayed to travel through the Rupel Pass in 
'order to avoid the hills. I had only covered a short distance 
'when my engine completely gave out and I was forced to 
'glide down and crashed in the bed of the river, having had 
'one wheel shot away and two rifle bullets through a cylin- 
'der, presumably at my first landing. Bulgarian soldiers 
'rushed towards me shouting "Bulgar or English?" On 
'telling them that I was English they fired at me at point- 
'blank range, but the firing was very wild and the shots 
'went in all directions, leaving me untouched. As they 
'continued to fire I ran towards the hills, hoping to find 
'cover, but they came after me and I was very soon over- 
'taken as I was hampered by the extra flying clothes I was 

i9i8] RETREAT 307 

Vearing. I caught hold of the nearest soldier, gripping 
'him by the shoulders, and called upon the others to stop 
'firing. I handed my revolver to this man, but he im- 
'mediately dropped it, being afraid of it. The others then 
'came up and went through all my pockets, but only cleared 
'my cigarette case. They then conducted me to a Regimen- 
'tal H.Q. at Vetrina. . . .' He goes on to tell how he was 
put on trial and informed that he would be shot, but how 
he was eventually treated as an ordinary prisoner of war. 

After the two-day battle of Do j ran there was a brief 
breathing-space. Both sides had suffered heavily, the 
attackers more than the defenders, and on the 20th the 
British and Greek troops were engaged in relief movements 
and re-organization. Air reconnaissances on the 20th 
reported no important enemy activity, except that there 
were trains, with steam up, facing north in the stations at 
Hudova and Demir Kapija: there was also a train at 
Hudova alongside the aerodrome. 

The operation orders issued to the squadrons on the 
evening of the 20th allotted the usual artillery and close 
reconnaissance duties to the co-operation Flights for the 
next day. On the morning of the 21st, however, about 
8 a.m., loud explosions were heard from the British lines 
far into the enemy area, and it was not long before the 
aeroplane observers were bringing back news which left 
no doubt that the Bulgars were, at long last, turning their 
backs upon the Dojran-Vardar defences. The most com- 
prehensive information was given in a reconnaissance report 
made by the observers in two D.H.9 aeroplanes which left 
at 8.30 a.m. to inspect the Strumica Valley-Negotino- 
Hudova area. The aeroplanes returned at noon and the 
officers told of widespread movements. The hangars had 
disappeared from the aerodrome at Hudova, the dumps 
and buildings were burning at Cestovo, there had been a 
notable clearance of mihtary stores and camps at Demir 
Kapija, there were fires blazing in Krivolak and Gradsko, 
at Rabrovo there was much crowding of mechanical trans- 
port vehicles, and there were as many as 500 lorries and 
wagons waiting their turn to move along the Kosturino 

3o8 MACEDONIA [ch. viii 

The XII Corps commander promptly issued orders that 
all defensive work was to cease, and that the troops were to 
be given a short rest preliminary to an advance. Every 
available aeroplane was ordered to bomb the enemy troops 
and transport. Thirty-two separate flights were made and 
a total of fourteen Ii2-lb. and two hundred and twenty- 
nine 20-lb. bombs were dropped. The main targets were 
the troops and crowded transport in the Kosturino defile 
on the Strumica-Rabrovo road, and when the bombs 
had been dropped the pilots and observers fired all their 
machine-gun ammunition into the luckless columns. Not 
many bombs failed to find a mark, so exceptional were the 
targets, and lorries, men, and animals were blown in all 

In the late afternoon two aeroplanes directed artillery 
fire on bridges near Furka : while these artillery observers 
were flying about their work they had a wide view of the 
destruction of military stores which was in progress in the 
enemy area, and one of them counted no fewer than sixty- 
four separate fires. 

There was a gale blowing on the morning of the 22nd 
when the bombing was resumed. Seven 1 12-lb. bombs and 
a hundred and two of 20-lb. weight were dropped on 
enemy columns during the day, mainly in the Kosturino 
pass. At noon a telegram had been received from General 
Franchet d'Esperey saying that the enemy was in retreat 
along the whole front from Monastir to Lake Dojran, and 
that the retreat must be turned into a rout by an unceasing 
and resolute pursuit. General Milne's orders issued for 
the 23rd stated that the advance was to be continued with 
the greatest possible speed. 

On the 22nd, and again on the 23rd, there were long- 
distance reconnaissances, nine on the 22nd and seven on 
the following day. The object was to find out as much as 
possible of the movements of the enemy, and to discover 
in particular whether the Bulgars were taking up any 
specific defensive positions. The information brought back 
by the observers was that there were no signs that the 
enemy troops intended to make a stand. It is easy to be 
wise in retrospect and it has been suggested that the D.H.9 


aeroplanes, the most valuable bombing aircraft with the 
squadrons, should have been employed for offensive opera- 
tions at this time, and that no more than the minimum 
strength should have been diverted to reconnaissance. 
There w^ere, however, many reasons why the British com- 
mand needed to be reassured about the enemy intentions. 
There were grave elements of danger if the Bulgars should 
make a counter-offensive, and no doubt the very full in- 
formation provided by the air observers enabled the British 
Commander-in-Chief to push his troops forward in pursuit 
of the enemy faster, because with easier mind, than if he 
had received only scant knowledge of the hostile activities. 
The army command was in the best position to judge the 
needs of the situation, and its appreciation was that the 
aeroplanes were better employed on reconnaissance than 
on bombing attacks. About 40 light-weight bombs were 
dropped on the retreating columns on the 23rd, and a few 
thousand rounds of machine-gun ammunition were fired at 

On the 24th air reconnaissance reports showed that the 
enemy movements continued northwards in full force. On 
the Struma front, where reconnaissances were made by 
the single-seaters of No. 150 Squadron, a withdrawal was 
also reported to be in progress. Five of the Armstrong- 
Whitworths of No. 47 Squadron found targets of troops 
and transport in the neighbourhood of Strumica on the 
morning of the 24th and dropped thirty-six 20-lb. bombs 
which were seen to inflict casualties and damage. Two 
Armstrong- Whitworths of No. 1 7 Squadron attacked trans- 
port and troops again in the evening. None of the D.H.g's 
was in action on the 24th. On this day three aeroplanes 
from the naval contingent at Mudros arrived at Amberkoj, 
the aerodrome of No. 17 Squadron, to help in the opera- 
tions. On the 25th there were fourteen bombing flights, 
during which a total of twelve 112-lb. and eighty 20-lb. 
bombs were dropped. 

The Germans have stated that the Bulgarian First Army 
became demoralized as it retreated, and there can be no 
doubt that the British aeroplanes contributed much to 
this state of affairs. In the battle fought at Dojran on the 

310 MACEDONIA [ch. viii ; 

1 8th and 19th of September the Bulgarian First Army had 
suffered severe losses, although less severe than the British 
and the Greeks. The Bulgarian troops had revealed fine 
soldierly qualities, and it is known that their spirit remained 
high after the battle. As they proceeded to make their en- 
forced v^ithdrawal they might drav^ such comfort as they 
could from the knov^ledge that the difficulties of the 
country made it extremely unlikely that the British and 
Greek troops would be able to effect a rapid pursuit. 
Although the units of the Bulgarian First Army may have 
become aware, as they went back, of the demoralization in 
the ranks of the defeated Bulgarian Eleventh Army, it 
seems doubtful whether such well-tried soldiers would have 
collapsed so soon if it had not been for the air bombing 
offensive to which, as was made painfully clear to them by 
the disappearance from the air of German pilots, there 
could be no answer. By the 25th of September the de- 
moralization was such that, in the words of the official 
military historian, 'the British and Greeks between Lake 
'Dojran and the Vardar were troubled more by the nature 
'of the country than by the resistance of the enemy'. 

On the 26th the three bombers from Mudros (two 
D.H.9's and one D.H.4) attacked the aerodrome and rail- 
way sidings at Livunovo, and eight other pilots at intervals 
bombed troops and transport between Strumica and Yeni- 
koi. On this day the Sixteenth Wing head-quarters moved 
with general head-quarters from Salonika to Yanesh, and 
'C Flight of No. 17 Squadron moved from Amberkoj to 
an aerodrome at Stojakovo. Next day there was consider- 
able mist which impeded air work, but four aeroplanes 
bombed at various times, notably columns in the Kryesna 
pass on the Struma front. On the 28th air reconnaissances 
revealed that the Kryesna road was 'choked with trans- 
port'. Pilots made two or three journeys and there was a 
total of twenty-nine bombing flights during which 
one hundred and ninty-four light-weight and five 
Il2-lb. bombs were dropped: all aeroplanes attacked also 
with machine-guns. Probably the greatest effect was 
obtained by six pilots of No. 47 Squadron when they 
bombed convoys in the Kryesna pass at 5.30 p.m. They 


carried forty- four bombs of 20-lb. weight, and half of these 
exploded directly among the transport, blowing some of 
it off the road, piling up wagons and causing a general 
panic. When making their way home from a reconnaissance 
flight which had taken them as far as Kyustendil, the pilot 
and observer in a D.H.9 saw twelve guns, oxen-drawn, 
among the retreating columns north of Kryesna. The pilot 
dived and machine-gun fire was opened from a height of 
500 feet : some of the men and oxen were seen to fall. An 
American diplomat subsequently stated that he was in his 
motor-car on the road at the time the aeroplane attack 
was made and that he saw several of the oxen and drivers 
killed or wounded: he himself had a narrow escape. 

On the 29th the mist was thick again. The first air 
observer over the Kryesna pass in the morning found that 
the traffic blockage had been cleared during the night, 
but that columns of transport and troops were on the 
move south of the pass. Seven pilots set out to attack these 
columns, and among the sixty-three bombs dropped were 
three of 1 12-lb. weight : many direct hits were made. This 
was destined to be the last offensive air operation and the 
martyrdom of the Bulgar troops was at an end. Mist and 
clouds throughout the remainder of the day prevented a 
continuance of the bombing, and at 10 p.m. a Conven- 
tion was signed by General Franchet d'Esperey and by 
plenipotentiaries of the Bulgarian Government in accor- 
dance with which hostilities ceased at noon on the following 
day, the 30th of September. The activities of the Royal 
Air Force on the morning of the 30th were confined to 
reconnaissance flights, one of which was made to Sofia, 
which was found cloud-obscured. 

It was. possible near the end, and after hostilities had 
ceased, to gain a closer impression of the results of the 
bombing attacks. Staff officers who inspected the routes 
from Cestovo to Kosturino were awed by what they saw. 
Their observation was summarized in a telegram sent by 
advanced general head-quarters to the Sixteenth Wing, 
saying: 'The routes from Cestovo valley to Kosturino show 
'signs of the indescribable confusion that must have existed 
'in the retreat of the Bulgar army. Guns of all kinds, 

312 MACEDONIA [ch. viii 

'motor-cars, machine-guns, rifles, and every kind of war 
'material abandoned. Dead animals are strewn every- 
'where, indicating that our R.A.F. must have contributed 
'largely to bringing about this state of things.' The intel- 
ligence officer of No. 47 Squadron, who had been sent 
forward on the 26th of September to make such inspection 
as was open to him at that time, reported 300 transport 
wagons destroyed in one area with their horses and oxen 
lying dead. In a ravine there was 'a vast number of pack 
animals', and at the hospital at Rabrovo more than 700 
human bodies had been collected for burial. Every few 
yards along the Rabrovo-Kosturino road were dead animals, 
derelict motor-cars, transport of all kinds, and in the nullahs 
near the road transport lay tumbled where it had crashed. 
First-hand evidence of the effect of the bombing in the 
Kryesna pass is lacking, but there is no reason to believe 
that it was less devastating. 

Although Bulgaria had laid down her arms, the war was 
not over. The German supreme command, however, to 
whom the rapid collapse of Bulgaria had come as a sur- 
prise, had no illusions. They knew that the position of 
Austria-Hungary and of Turkey had been made extremely 
hazardous. General Franchet d'Esperey decided to direct 
his full attention to the Danube, rather than to Constan- 
tinople, and he ordered a bold forward movement. The 
British troops began to advance accordingly, but as the 
result of an interchange of views between General Milne 
and the authorities at home, and between the British and 
French Governments, the Allied plans were modified 
and the task allotted to a newly assembled army under 
the command of General Milne was to secure the passage 
of the Dardanelles to enable the Fleet to take action 
against Constantinople. 

Before this decision was arrived at, the opportunity was 
taken to overhaul the aeroplanes, transport, and stores of 
the Royal Air Force squadrons. Some of the aeroplanes 
were employed to convey officials on important missions to 
Sofia and other places. When it was settled that the British 
army would move against Turkey, a Royal Air Force 
officer was sent to make a selection of suitable landing- 


grounds. Reconnaissances, meanwhile, were made by 
No. 47 Squadron from the former German aerodrome 
at Drama. It was decided to send a FHght from No. 17 
Squadron for co-operation with the XVI Corps from an 
aerodrome near PhiHppopoHs, and to organize a Composite 
FHght from Nos. 47 and 150 Squadrons for work with the 
XII Corps from an aerodrome near Gumuljina. An ad- 
vanced convoy moved out to PhiHppopoHs, on their 250- 
mile journey along bad roads, on the 19th of October, and 
two aeroplanes followed a few days later. The Composite 
Flight followed their transport to the aerodrome near 
Gumuljina on the 25th. On the 31st of October, before 
the various movements of the Royal Air Force units had 
been completed the armistice was signed with Turkey. 


[Map, p. 315] 

*I REQUEST that the situation as regards aircraft in the 
'Mediterranean may receive the earnest consideration of 
'the Board', Vice-Admiral the Hon. Sir S. A. Gough- 
Calthorpe, British Commander-in-Chief in the Mediter- 
ranean, had said in a telegram to the Admiralty on the 
15th of December 191 7. The reader will recall that arising 
out of the representations made by the vice-admiral the 
air units in the Mediterranean had been expanded and 
reorganized, and that Wing Captain A. M. Longmore 
had been appointed to the staff of the commander-in- 
chief as senior air service officer with authority, under the 
vice-admiral, to move units as required from area to area 
in the Mediterranean.^ There was, in other words, a 
unified air command and an assurance that the needs of 
the Mediterranean would be considered as a whole. 

By the ist of April 1918, the day on which the Royal 
Air Force was formed, the reorganization scheme had been 
nearly completed, and on that day the air units in the 
Mediterranean were: 

Malta Group. 

Head-quarters of Royal Air Force units in the Mediter- 
ranean ........ Malta 

Seaplane Base ........ Kalafrana 

No. I Balloon Base Malta 

No. 6 Balloon Base ....... Bizerta 

Dockyard constructional unit ..... Malta 

The aircraft carriers, Engadine, Riviera, and Manxman based at Malta. 
For local operations the units came under the orders of the Admiral 
Superintendent, Malta. 

Adriatic Group. 

Head-quarters, Taranto, with advanced head-quarters at Brindisi : under 

the orders of the Commodore commanding British Adriatic Force. 
66th Wing (Wing Commander D. A. Oliver) . . Otranto 

^67th „ (Wing Commander R. P. Ross) . . Taranto 

1 Vol. V, pp. 395-7. 

2 Although formed with effect from the 1st of April 1918, this Wing 
did not begin operations until the end of June 191 8. The first raid made 
by the Wing was on the 1st of July. 



No. 224 Squadron Otranto 

,,225 „ Otranto 

„ 226 „ Taranto 

„ 227 „ Taranto 

Seaplane Base . . . . . . . . Santa Maria 

di Leuca 

No. 3 Balloon Base . Brindisi 

No. 4 Balloon Base Corfu 

The aircraft on charge were: D.H.4, Sopwith 'Camel', Sopwith ij 
strutter; Short seaplane, F.B.A. (Italian) Flying Boat, Sopwith 'Baby', 
and Hamble 'Baby' seaplanes. 

Aegean Group. 

Head-quarters, Mudros: under the orders of the Rear-Admiral, Aegean. 
62nd and 63rd Wings (Acting Wing Captain R. Gordon) Mudros 

No. 220 Squadron 

„ 221 

„ 222 

» 223 
Seaplane Bases 

Suda Bay 
and Syra 

Airship Station ....... 

Aircraft Carriers Ark Royal and Peony, based at Mudros. 
The aircraft on charge were: D.H.4, Sopwith 'Camel', Sopwith ij 
strutter; Short and Sopwith 'Baby' seaplanes. 

Egypt Group. 

Head-quarters, Alexandria : under Rear-Admiral . . Egypt 

Seaplane Base ........ Port Said 

Seaplane Base . . . . . . . . Alexandria 

No. 2 Balloon Base ....... Alexandria 

Aircraft Carrier City of Oxford based at Alexandria. 
The aircraft on charge were: Short, Sopwith 'Baby', and Hamble 'Baby' 

Gibraltar Group. 
Under the Senior Naval Officer, Gibraltar. 
No. 5 Balloon Base ....... Gibraltar 

Aircraft Carrier Empress based at Gibraltar. 

The operations of these air groups were almost entirely 
connected with the campaign against the U-boats. They 
may be broadly divided into {a) anti-submarine patrols 
and direct attacks on submarines at sea, and {b) a bombing 
offensive against the enemy ports and depots, particularly 
the submarine bases, and against the lines of communica- 
tions. The work under (a) was mainly done by seaplanes, 

3i6 THE MEDITERRANEAN IN 1918 [ch. ix 

although aeroplanes also co-operated in the Adriatic and 
Aegean areas. It included protective escort duties with 
convoys, of v^hich there v^as a great amount at the ports 
v^here there v^ere seaplane stations, namely, Gibraltar, 
Malta, Alexandria, Port Said, and Taranto. The opera- 
tions under (Z?), w^hich included attacks on enemy aero- 
dromes, were made by light bombers, mostly D.H.4's, 
usually with escorts of single-seater fighters. 

Kite Balloons with Convoys 

A notable feature of the war waged against the U-boat 
in the Mediterranean in 191 8 was the increasing employ- 
ment of kite balloons. The objection, advanced by some 
naval authorities, that a balloon was certain to advertise 
the presence of ships to the enemy long before they would 
otherwise become visible did not have much force in the 
Mediterranean where the air was usually so clear that the 
smoke from vessels in company could be seen from great 
distances, with the result that the presence of a convoy was 
betrayed whether or not a balloon was flown. 

Opinion was divided about the position which the kite 
balloon ship should occupy relative to a convoy. Should 
the balloon be stationed some miles ahead of the ships, or 
should it be flown close to them ? Those who advocated the 
first method claimed for it the advantage that a lurking 
U-boat would be forced to dive a long way from the 
convoy and might not, in consequence, be able to arrive at 
a favourable position in which to fire her torpedoes. Those 
who preferred that the kite balloon should keep station 
near the convoy argued that a submarine commander 
would be intimidated, and might therefore be disinclined 
to attack at all, or, alternatively, that he would fire his 
torpedoes only at long range and thus reduce the chances 
of a hit, more especially because the balloon observer 
would be in a position, and would have the necessary time, 
to indicate to the particular ship under attack how the 
oncoming torpedo might be avoided. Both methods were 
used, but there is not enough evidence to support a dog- 
matic assertion in favour of either one or the other. The 


available material and personnel did not permit of the two 
methods being employed together, but no doubt this 
would have become usual for the more important convoys 
had the war continued a little longer. There is little doubt 
that a balloon, no matter where it was flown, added to the 
security of the ships. It is fairly certain also that this result 
was achieved mainly by moral effect. To the U-boat com- 
mander the balloon represented a large all-seeing eye which 
it was the part of wisdom to avoid. The balloons were flown 
from destroyers or sloops, and the work of escort began in 
May 1 91 8: from that time onwards those convoys in the 
Mediterranean which had a kite balloon in company were 
almost immune from attack. The stations where balloons 
were available for employment with convoys were those at 
Gibraltar, Bizerta, Malta, and Alexandria.^ Other bases 
were in preparation at Genoa, Milo, and Port Said, and 
when they were ready it would be possible to supply escort- 
ing balloons for the principal convoy routes throughout 
the Mediterranean. 

That the presence of a balloon was of help in warding off 
an attack seemed to be demonstrated by occasional happen- 
ings, involving unescorted ships, which took place after a 
convoy flying a balloon had passed on its way. It cannot 
be said that the episodes are conclusive, but an example or 
two will be given for what they are worth. For instance, 
the convoy from Bizerta on the loth of August, escorted 
by the sloop Snapdragon with her kite balloon aloft, made 
the passage to Malta without incident, but when a few of 
the ships subsequently proceeded on their own to Marsa 
Scirocco at the south-east corner of the island they were 
attacked, and one of them was sunk by a torpedo. Again, 
two days later, the convoy from Milo, with the kite-balloon 
sloop Penstemon in company, handed over to an Italian 
escort at an appointed rendezvous that part of the convoy 
which was bound for Italy. The Italian section, which had 
no balloon or other escorting aircraft, had not gone far 
when it was attacked by a submarine and one of the ships 
was hit. The observer in the balloon saw what had happened 

^ The Adriatic balloon stations, at Brindisi and Corfu, were occupied 
with anti-submarine patrols north and south of the Otranto barrage. 

3i8 THE MEDITERRANEAN IN 1918 [ch. ix 

and the Penstemon turned back to give such help as she 
could: no further attack on the convoy v^as made. 

About the middle of May, probably on the i6th, the, w^hich had been cruising west of the Straits of 
Gibraltar, v^here she had attacked two ships, re-entered 
the Mediterranean. On the morning of the 17th a Short 
seaplane from the carrier Empress, which had arrived at 
Gibraltar on the 7th of May to lend her help in the pro- 
tection of shipping, was on patrol east of Europa Point 
when the periscope of a submarine was sighted. The com- 
mander of the U-boat — the U.jg — appeared to be position- 
ing himself for an attack on eight ships which v/ere pro- 
ceeding in company. As the Short seaplane bore down 
upon the submarine it disappeared, but a loo-lb. bomb 
was dropped just ahead of the place where it had gone 
under: not long after the bomb had exploded a large oil 
patch began to form on the water. The seaplane pilot 
circled the area for a time, but he saw nothing more and he 
then flew with the ships for an hour. There is evidence 
that the U.jg was attacked by aircraft again next morn- 
ing, presumably French. Later, on the i8th of May, it 
was towed by another submarine into Cartagena and was 
there interned with its crew. This appears to be the only 
confirmed instance in any part of the British Mediter- 
ranean area in 191 8, when direct aircraft attack put an end 
to the war activities of a U-boat.^ 

The Otranto Barrage 

The main centre of anti-submarine activity in the 
Mediterranean was in the area of the Straits of Otranto, 
the comparatively narrow waters through which all the 
U-boats must pass on their way to or from their bases on 
the Austrian Adriatic coast. By the middle of April 191 8 
Vice-Admiral Gough-Calthorpe had assembled a sufficient 
force to enable him to put into execution his plans for 
perfecting the barrage. The dispositions of the ships varied 
from time to time, but the constitution of the barrage was 

^ The confirmed sinkings of U-boats in the whole Mediterranean area 
in 1 91 8 were ten, additional to the above. 


maintained without appreciable change. 'An outpost force 
'of six submarines watched the approaches to Cattaro; to 
'the south of them a force of destroyers patrolled a line 
'drawn across the central part of the straits between point 
'Samana, on the Albanian side, and Monopoli; by night 
'they patrolled a line some twenty miles further to the 
'south. A number of trawlers, fitted with hydrophones, 
'occupied the narrowest part of the straits between Otranto 
'and the coast to the south of Cape Linguetta ; immediately 
'to the south of them was what was called the main auxi- 
'liary patrol line of drifters and trawlers. It was thought 
'that every passing submarine would be at least detected 
'by the ships upon the first line that she crossed, and that 
'from then onwards she would be pursued and harried 
'without respite.'^ 

The part played by the Royal Air Force in the Otranto 
barrage scheme was varied. Brindisi was the earliest balloon 
base in the Mediterranean to begin work, and the first patrol 
started on the 2nd of May 191 8 when a balloon with four 
officers and seven ratings was transferred to the sloop 
Honeysuckle about to set out on patrol of the Straits. 
Observers were sent up at 11.30 a.m. on the 3rd, and watch 
was kept without break during daylight hours until 6.30 
p.m. on the 5th. On the evening of the 3rd the attention 
of the balloon observer was attracted by a suspicious oil 
patch, and forty minutes later an enemy submarine was 
sighted about seven miles away proceeding north on the 
surface. The Honeysuckle was directed towards the U- 
boat, which dived when the ship was still five miles dis- 
tant. The sloop continued to the spot indicated by the 
balloon observer and dropped a depth charge, but nothing 
further of interest was seen. The Corfu station also began 
to supply balloons for the patrolHng ships in May, and the 
above happening may be looked upon as typical of those 
in which the balloons from both stations were frequently 

The seaplane base at Taranto was mainly used as a 
reception and erection depot for new aircraft, which were 
passed to the seaplane squadron at Otranto or to the sub- 
' Naval Operations^ by Sir Henry Newbolt, vol. v, p. 286. 

320 THE MEDITERRANEAN IN 1918 [ch. ix 

station at Santa Maria di Leuca. The duties of the sea- 
planes were routine anti-submarine patrols, and special 
investigations when signals (code word 'Alio') were received 
of U-boats definitely sighted. In addition, as opportunity 
offered, the seaplanes were employed to escort convoys 
passing in the neighbourhood. One or two examples will 
help to illustrate the daily work of the seaplane personnel. 
On the morning of the 3rd of June the periscope of a sub- 
marine was sighted from a Short seaplane which was en- 
gaged upon a routine patrol. When the seaplane was still 
a mile and a half distant the U-boat went under, but a 
230-lb. bomb was dropped on the position where it was 
estimated she would be: the bomb failed to explode. Cal- 
cium flares were then dropped to mark the spot, and three 
destroyers in the neighbourhood were informed by light 
signals and lamp messages of what had happened. A 
systematic search of the area then began, and some three 
hours later an oil patch appeared about two miles north of 
the original sighting. A 230-lb. bomb was dropped on the 
new position by the seaplane, which had replenished at its 
base, and the bomb duly exploded, but nothing more was 
seen. On the 15 th of June a Short seaplane was on patrol 
along the barrage line when a signal was received at the 
home station requesting the help of aircraft to search for 
mines which had apparently been laid by a U-boat off 
Santa Maria di Leuca. A wireless call was sent out to the 
pilot of the patrolling Short seaplane ordering him to make 
a diversion in order to search the specified area : as a result 
a group of mines was found and their positions were 
reported. At 7.5 p.m. on the 19th of July a Sopwith 'Baby' 
seaplane set out upon a routine patrol. After the seaplane 
had been out some time a U-boat, camouflaged in green 
and black, was sighted with its periscope above water. The 
pilot dived, and 200 feet above the water the only bomb 
carried, of loo-lb. weight, was released: it exploded thirty 
yards from the submarine which began slowly to submerge. 
From the seaplane the U-boat was visible as it went down 
for about sixty feet. Two flares were dropped to mark the 
spot where it was last seen, and patrolling surface craft were 
signalled to take up the hunt, which proved unsuccessful. 


Such incidents, unexciting and inconclusive, in the grim, 
baffling, and tedious warfare waged against the U-boats, 
were the common experience of the seaplane personnel 
in the area of the Otranto barrage. 

More dramatic, and wholly offensive, were the bombing 
operations conducted against the U-boat bases at Cattaro 
and Durazzo hy formations of D.H.4 and D.H.9 aero- 
planes. To attack Cattaro, the most important base in the 
area, involved a journey totalling more than 400 miles 
over the sea. The bombing offensive, in which the Italian 
air service also took part, got under way in May, but as a 
beginning an attack had been made on Durazzo on the 23rd 
of April when five D.H.4's dropped two 230-lb. and six- 
teen lOO-lb. bombs, which exploded among ships in the 
harbour and close to the seaplane base. The first attack 
of this period on Cattaro took place on the nth of May, 
and between that date and the end of August there 
were twelve bombing attacks by British aeroplanes on 
Cattaro and seven on Durazzo. 

The raid on Cattaro on the nth of May was made by 
six D.H.4's which dropped bombs among submarines and 
destroyers in the harbour: one of the bombers landed with 
engine trouble and the pilot and his observer were later 
reported prisoners of war. The subsequent attacks were 
made by similar formations, and bombs to a total weight 
varying between one ton and two tons were dropped on 
each raid. Hits were reported from time to time on ship- 
ping both in Cattaro and Durazzo, and on the submarine 
head-quarters and barracks, the seaplane base, the arsenal 
buildings, and the dockyard at Cattaro, and on the sea- 
plane base at Durazzo. The attacks, especially those on 
Cattaro, led to air combats from time to time, mostly of an 
indecisive character. 

Evidence from the Austrian and German side of the 
exact results of the air bombing offensive, British and 
Italian, is not available. That it inflicted important 
damage is certain, but it seems clear that not enough was 
caused to exert any serious effect on the submarine cam- 
paign. Nor indeed can more be claimed for the whole 
elaborate Otranto barrage organization which required 

2504.6 V 

322 THE MEDITERRANEAN IN 1918 [ch. ix 

the services of nearly three hundred vessels of various 
kinds. ^ In April and May 191 8 there had been fifty 
passages of submarines through the Straits of Otranto, 
and although all the submarines had been sighted, or 
detected by hydrophone, it v^as only possible on fourteen 
occasions to make some sort of attack, as a result of which 
no more than one submarine had definitely been sunk. 
That the barrage caused inconvenience to the U-boat com- 
manders is obvious, and the passage W2ls certainly a time 
of anxiety w^hich possibly helped to fray the nerves of the 
U-boat personnel and so affect their morale. 

In June 191 8 the sinkings of Allied shipping in the 
Mediterranean w^ere reduced by one-half. In July they 
rose very slightly, but in August the sinkings v^ere down 
again, and they continued to fall as the war progressed to 
its end. It was considered at the time that this happy 
result was brought about by the elaborate offensive measures 
undertaken in the Mediterranean, and in particular by the 
Otranto barrage scheme, but the post-war view advanced 
by the official naval historian is that the defeat of the U- 
boat was due almost exclusively to a perfection of the con- 
voy system.^ He points out that although the enemy was 
not able to maintain quite as many submarines at sea in the 
Mediterranean area in June as in the previous month, the 
total number of days spent by submarines on cruise was 
not below the average. Yet, although the same amount 
of energy was expended by the U-boats, no more than 
78,000 tons of shipping was destroyed in June against the 
176,000 tons of a short time previously. This, in his judge- 
ment, was because the development of the convoy system 
led, in June, to more escortings of shipping, with longer 
and better protection for each escorted ship. (It may also 
be noted, in parenthesis, that a feature of this better pro- 
tection was the provision of a kite balloon escort for the 
important convoys.) Though it may not be possible to 

^ In September 191 8 the Otranto Barrage Force comprised 280 vessels, 
namely, 31 destroyers, 8 submarines, 6 sloops, 4 torpedo boats, 36 submarine 
chasers (American), 38 hydrophone trawlers, 14 trawlers, loi drifters, 41 
motor launches, and i yacht. 

^ See Naval Operations, by Sir Henry Newbolt, vol. v, ch. viii. 


dispute the general conclusions of the naval historian, a 
doubt may perhaps be expressed whether sufficient weight 
has been given to the effect of the Otranto barrage 
organization, and of the air offensive. Both inflicted some 
damage, and much anxiety, and although the effect was far 
smaller than hope had encouraged, it was nevertheless 
ponderable and cannot rightly be left out of account when 
the causes which brought about the defeat of the U-boat 
campaign in the Mediterranean are enumerated. 

l^he Aegean Group 

The Aegean group consisted of a number of more or less 
isolated stations scattered over the Aegean area from Lem- 
nos to Crete. The Air Ministry's intention was that each of 
the two wings should comprise a fighter (Sopwith 'Camel'), 
a light bomber (D.H.9), and a seaplane (Short '184' type) 
squadron, but the wings were below their allotted strength 
throughout most of 1918.^ Actually, the aeroplanes of the 
Aegean group, which made up the Sixty-second Wing, 
were divided into three composite units consisting of two 
Flights of bombers and two of fighters. They were stationed 
at Stavros and Imbros, but one unit was kept mobile for 
work as required from Imbros, Thasos, Mitylene, &c. The 
two seaplane squadrons, which comprised the Sixty-third 
Wing, were distributed among the stations at Talikna 
(Lemnos), Skyros, Suda Bay, and Syra. The depot ship 
Ark Royal moved from Syra on the i6th of April to supply 
the Suda Bay and Syra stations. At Mudros, where the 
group head-quarters was situated, the central aircraft depot 
formed an erecting and distributing centre for aeroplanes 
to all stations of the Sixty-second Wing. Certain units of 
the Greek naval air service also formed part of the Aegean 
group for operations. The duties of the group may be 
set down as : 

{a) Bombing attacks on enemy centres. 

^ At the end of August the two wings together had (serviceable) 30 
light bombers, which were D.H.4 and D.H.9, ^^^ 4^ fighters, with a 
collection of obsolescent aeroplanes mostly being used to give instruction 
to Greek pilots at Mudros. The seaplanes were 30 Shorts and 8 obsolescent 
single-seaters of the Hamble or Sopwith 'Baby' types. 

324 THE MEDITERRANEAN IN 1918 [ch. ix 

{b) Routine patrols of the Dardanelles and Sea of Mar- 
mara to give warning of enemy naval activity, v^ith 
occasional reconnaissances to Constantinople. 

{c) Anti-submarine patrols, and 

{d) Army reconnaissances on the Salonika front (by the 
Stavros unit). 

The airship station at Kassandra employed only one air- 
ship, of the S.S.Z. type, v^hich patrolled in search of sub- 
marines. A large airship programme for the Mediterranean 
was contemplated for 191 9, with 29 airships and portable 
sheds variously distributed at suitable places throughout 
the Mediterranean (in Egypt, Crete, Sicily, &c.), in order 
to spread a wide network of airship patrols. 

The objectives attacked by the bombers of the Aegean 
group included Galata aerodrome on the Peninsula, and 
the Nagara seaplane base, warehouses at Gallipoli, Chanak, 
the railway station and warehouses on the quay at Pan- 
derma, trains and stations on the railway lines of com- 
munication, bridges, notably those at Kuleli Burgas and 
Buk (on which a direct hit was made during a raid on the 
22nd of September), and military targets at Constan- 
tinople. The last-named objective was bombed on three 
occasions in July, four times in August, twice in September, 
and once in October. This last attack, made on the i8th, 
involved two separate formations of seven and five de 
Havilland aeroplanes. All the bombers returned safely and 
they reported hits on the War Office, the railway, and on 
Haidar Pasha. Other objectives, in connexion with the 
Macedonian campaign, were the aerodrome at Drama, and 
military targets in the area of the lower Struma. 

The enemy air service occasionally retaliated, but the 
bombing, with very few exceptions, was of a spasmodic 
kind and inflicted little damage. A notable exception was 
a series of attacks on the air station at Imbros which began 
at 8.40 p.m. on the 25th of July and continued until dawn 
on the following morning. A total of about sixty bombs 
were dropped, most of them scattered over the landing- 
ground and the quarters of the men : these were respon- 
sible for inconsiderable damage. One bomb, however, 
dropped from a height of fifty feet at 1.20 a.m., exploded 


in a hangar in which seven Sopwith 'Camel' fighters were 
housed. A fire was started which destroyed the hangar and 
its contents, and the loss of the Sopwith 'Camels' caused 
a shortage of fighters which was felt for some time. By- 
way of answer to this attack the aerodrome at Galata was 
bombed during the night of the 25 /26th of July, again 
next night, and by dayhght on the 27th. 

The Egyft Group 

The Egypt group was organized as the Sixty-fourth 
Wing and consisted of the seaplane stations at Alexandria 
and Port Said, and the kite balloon bases. The air stations 
of the Egypt group came under the Rear- Admiral, Egypt, 
for operations, and were subsequently placed under the 
head-quarters of the Royal Air Force in the Middle East, 
with its head-quarters at Cairo, for administrative pur- 
poses. The work of the wing consisted entirely of anti- 
submarine and minefield patrols, and the escort of convoys 
to and from Egypt. Escort of convoys was the most im- 
portant duty because the U-boat commanders did not 
apparently consider it worth while to operate near the 
Egyptian coast within reach of the British seaplanes, 
except on those occasions when convoys were on the move. 
A typical example of the usefulness of the seaplane work 
may be given. On the morning of the 8th of April a sea- 
plane from the Alexandria base set out to escort an in- 
coming convoy. Just when the seaplane picked up the first 
of the ships in the convoy, a submarine made an attack. 
The track of the torpedo, visible from the air, led to the 
periscope of the submarine, upon which the seaplane pilot 
dived and released a bomb. This exploded near the target, 
which turned. A second bomb, dropped just before the 
U-boat submerged, also failed to make a direct hit. Depth 
charges were dropped by escorting surface craft on the 
position indicated from the seaplane, but nothing more was 
seen : the convoy, meanwhile, proceeded safely into port. 

Apart from the general naval air work briefly narrated 
above, the Royal Air Force in the Mediterranean was 

326 THE MEDITERRANEAN IN 1918 [ch. ix 

required to undertake special duties in connexion with 
military operations. At the beginning of July 191 8 the 
Italian XVI Corps in Albania began an offensive against 
the Austrians. All British pilots and aircraft in the Otranto 
area, not specifically required for anti-submarine duties, 
were placed at the disposal of General Ferrero, the Italian 
Commander, who had his head-quarters at Valona. The 
Italian advance began on the 6th of July and was suc- 
cessful. It was made on a front of sixty miles to an average 
depth of ten miles and resulted in the capture of 2,000 
prisoners, 26 guns, and 6 aeroplanes. The French mean- 
while pushed forward the left of their Macedonian line 
to conform with the Italian advance. 

The duties allotted to the British air service in connexion 
with the Albanian operations were (i) destruction of the 
Kuchi bridge in order to cut the enemy's only line of 
communication with Berat, (ii) to observe for the fire of 
the two co-operating British monitors, the Earl of Peter- 
boro^ and Sir Thomas Picton, (iii) to bomb the enemy aero- 
drome at Tirana, east of Durazzo, (iv) to provide fighting 
escorts for Italian bombing aeroplanes, and (v) to make 
low-flying attacks on road traflSc, aerodromes, &c. In fulfil- 
ment of this programme the British aeroplanes dropped 
some three tons of bombs and fired about 3,000 rounds 
of machine-gun ammunition against ground targets. 

During one of the attacks on the Kuchi bridge on the 
6th of July, enemy fighters intervened, and the pilot in one 
of the D.H.9's was wounded and the engine in his aero- 
plane partly disabled by bullets : he was able, however, to 
return to his aerodrome. Another D.H.9 did not get back 
and when, on the following evening, Italian cavalry galloped 
forward and took possession of the enemy aerodrome at 
Fieri (against which low-flying attacks had been made by 
British aeroplanes on the previous day), they not only took 
prisoners five Austrian aviators and captured their aero- 
planes, but they also rescued, from the Fieri hospital, the 
two British officers who had been brought down in their 
D.H.9 while bombing the Kuchi bridge on the 6th: one of 
them had been wounded in the foot. 

The bombing attacks on the Kuchi bridge on the 6th 



Maj* 6 QhuhM 



i vu^ L 

Compj/e<^ in the Hfstorical Section (Military Branch). 

Crown Capyxi*4xt Reserved. 

Ordnance Survey, 193 7. 

1918] ALBANIA 327 

and 7th had proved unsuccessful, but as they seem to have 
been made, presumably under orders, from appreciable 
heights (some of them from 15,000 feet), this might not 
have been unexpected. On the 8th of July, hov^ever, the 
attacking pilots seem to have been allov^ed to use their ov^n 
discretion. Two of them v^ho attacked on that morning 
dropped their bombs from about 800 feet, and each 
obtained a direct hit v^ith a lOO-lb. bomb. It v^as clear 
from an air photograph, taken at the same time, that the 
damage inflicted had rendered the bridge useless for traffic, 
and the Italians were thereupon enabled to move forward 
to Berat. By the loth the Italians had gained all their 
objectives, and the British aeroplanes returned to their 
bases, taking with them the grateful thanks of General 
Ferrero who paid generous tribute to the part which their 
help had played in the success of his operations. Subse- 
quently, in August, Austrian counter-attacks against the 
Italians succeeded so well that they endangered the port of 
Valona, 'the capture of which by the Austrians would upset 
'the whole situation in the Adriatic and render the main- 
'tenance of the Otranto Barrage impossible'.^ Anxiety 
was ultimately relieved as an indirect result of the offensive 
launched by General Franchet d'Esperey on the Mace- 
donian front in September. 

On the 2nd of October a British and Italian fleet attacked 
Durazzo, and the bombing aircraft of the Sixty-sixth and 
Sixty-seventh Wings, operating from the aerodrome at 
Andrano, were given a special part. They operated in four 
formations. The first, of eight D.H.4's of No. 224 Squadron, 
escorted by four Sopwith 'Camels', arrived over Durazzo 
at 6.15 a.m. High explosive bombs of loo-lb., 112-lb., and 
230-lb., to a total weight of 3,500 lb., together with eighty 
small incendiary bombs, were dropped. Just before the 
first formation of bombers returned to Andrano, the second 
formation, made up of six D.H.9's of No. 226 Squadron, 
left and they attacked Durazzo with 2,780-lb. weight of 
bombs at 10 a.m. On the outward journey this formation 
sighted the AUied fleet steering for Durazzo, and before 
they had finished dropping their bombs, the fleet had 
Falls, Military Operations, Macedonia, vol. ii, p. 119. 

328 THE MEDITERRANEAN IN 1918 [ch. ix 

opened fire. The third formation, of four bombers of No. 
226 Squadron, and the fourth, of seven, arrived over their 
objective at 10.50 a.m. and 11.30 a.m. respectively. Before 
the last of the bombers left, the bombardment hy the 
AlHed fleet had ended and Durazzo was burning fiercely 
in many places. A large America flying-boat and three 
Short seaplanes accompanied the fleet, and fighting forma- 
tions of Sopwith 'Camels' patrolled over the town while 
the bombing attacks were in progress. This was the final 
concentrated bombing attack in the Otranto area; but 
before hostilities ended there were many low-flying attacks, 
mainly by the single-seater fighters, on retreating enemy 
columns on the Albanian front. 

Aeroplanes from the Mediterranean took a part also 
in the final operations in Macedonia. At the request of 
General Sir G. F. Milne, the British Commander-in-Chief, 
four D.H.9's were sent to the aerodrome at Amberkoj to 
help bomb the retreating Bulgars. The bombing began 
on the 25th of September against troops and transport 
on the Strumica-Petric road : bombing flights continued 
daily until hostilities ended. 



Home Waters 
[Map, p. 380] 

The German U-boat campaign continued, throughout 
1 91 8, to influence, almost to the point of dictation, British 
naval developments. In the North Sea the measures taken 
to counter the submarine used up important elements of 
the first-line striking forces of Britain and were equivalent, 
in their total consequences, 'to a strategical division of 
the 'Fleet'. ^ For this reason, and for others set out by the 
official naval historian. Admiral Sir David Beatty, the 
Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, suggested early 
in January 191 8 that, on the principle that trade must 
be protected, the strategy of the Grand Fleet should no 
longer be to endeavour to bring the enemy to action at any 
cost, but rather to contain him in his bases until the general 
position became more favourable : the Admiralty approved 
this suggested change of strategic method. 

Action against the U-boats v^as defensive and offensive. 
The former included the system of convoys and of escorts, 
and the patrol of defined v^ar channels around the British 
Isles. Offensive action lay mainly in organized hunts by 
flotillas of light craft, and in the placing of mine-fields. 

Aero-plane versus U-boat 

Following the introduction of the convoy system, 
German U-boat tactics were revised, and the change had 
an important effect on naval air policy in 191 8. The sub- 
marine commanders found by experience that their opera- 
tions had small chance of success unless they were conducted 
close to the shore where merchant ships might be caught 
on their way to a port of assembly or after they had dis- 
persed from convoy. The charts kept in the Admiralty, 
on which the activities of the U-boats were plotted, clearly 
depicted the change in tactics. During the final quarter of 

^ Naval Operations^ hy Sir Henry Newbolt, vol. v, p. 206. 

330 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

191 7 the number of merchant ships sunk at a distance of 
ten miles or less from the land rose steadily, until the losses 
within this narrow belt reached sixty per cent, of the total 
sinkings. Furthermore, zones of particular danger were 
disclosed, mainly off the coasts of Devon and Cornwall, 
and between the Tyne and the Humber. 

In consequence, the aeroplane, which could operate from 
any suitable aerodrome near the coast and with reasonable 
safety over inshore waters, took on a new importance as an 
anti-submarine weapon. At the end of January 191 8 the 
Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet asked for addi- 
tional aircraft for patrol of the coastal area between the 
Tyne and the Tees where U-boat operations were intense, 
and early in March the Air Ministry, as a temporary 
measure, placed a Flight of F.E.zb aeroplanes of No. 36 
Home Defence Squadron (Seaton Carew) at the disposal 
of the Admiralty. Two Flights of D.H.6 (training-type) 
aeroplanes were also established at Cramlington, near New- 
castle, for anti-submarine work off the Tyne, and a further 
Flight, of F.E.2b's, at Ashington, was detached for patrol 
off the Northumberland coast. 

These measures were of a makeshift kind. In the middle 
of March, however, a considered scheme was put forward 
by Captain R. M. Groves, R.N., the deputy-controller of 
the technical department of the Air Ministry. It aimed at 
the establishment of 'protected lanes' for merchant vessels 
where the trade routes approached within ten miles of the 
coast. The supposition was that U-boat commanders 
would not stay on the surface, nor operate with periscopes 
showing, if they knew that aeroplanes, which were poten- 
tial bombers swift to act, were about. It was estimated 
that if sufficient aircraft could be provided for the passage 
of one aeroplane along the lanes every twenty minutes, the 
submarines would be forced into inactivity. 

There was a shortage of efficient bombers and, in any 
event, aeroplanes capable of carrying heavy-weight bombs 
and manned by skilled pilots and observers were best 
employed on offensive operations. U-boat commanders, 
however, because of their known fear of aeroplanes, were 
susceptible to a reasonable measure of bluff, and types 

i9i8] D.H.6 PATROLS 331 

obsolete for other forms of air activity, in the hands of 
pilots unsuited for more exacting work, might still be 
employed with fair prospects of success on anti-submarine 
patrol. The main object, it was pointed out, was not so 
much to destroy U-boats, a matter calling for experience 
and skill, as to frighten them away from the protected lanes, 
which was considered to be comparatively easy of accom- 
plishment. It happened that there were some 300 un- 
wanted D.H.6 training- type aeroplanes. They suffered the 
disadvantage that they could not carry an observer as well 
as bombs, and that the engines with which most of them 
were equipped (90 horse-power Curtiss, O.X.5), were not 
very trustworthy.^ On the other hand the D.H.6 could 
be flown with ease, even by pilots who for various reasons 
were not fitted for exacting service, and if it was forced 
down on the water through engine failure, which should 
not often happen because it would mostly be required to 
operate close to the land, then it had the advantage that 
it would not easily sink.^ 

The Air Ministry, while recognizing that the employ- 
ment of the obsolete D.H.6 could be considered only a 
temporary expedient, offered, in pursuance of the scheme 
put forward by Captain R. M. Groves, to provide the 
Admiralty with 192 D.H.6 aeroplanes organized as thirty- 
two Flights, exclusive of those already operating at Seaton 
Carew and Cramlington. It was considered that twenty- 
seven of these Flights could be established at various coastal 
aerodromes by the end of June, and it was suggested that the 
remaining five Flights might be allocated to existing air- 
ship stations. 3 The Admiralty accepted the proposal while 
pointing out that the number of aeroplanes offered was in- 
adequate to maintain vigilance over those coastal waters 
where continuous aeroplane patrols were deemed neces- 

^ Some had 90 horse-power Royal Aircraft Factory engines which were 

^ There were instances when a D.H.6 remained afloat for as long as ten 

3 At the request of the Admiralty these five Flights were allotted to the 
United States Naval Air Service for patrols off the north-east coast of 
Ireland. The American air service had personnel available, but no aero- 

332 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

sary. It was agreed that the Flights should be disposed as 
follows : 

Humber to the Tees 5 Flights 

Tees to St. Abb's Head 4 

Portsmouth Group 4 

South Western 8 

Irish Sea 6 

These Flights of D.H.6 aeroplanes were responsible for 
the main anti-submarine aeroplane patrol work to the end 
of the war. As a body they were the Cinderella of the air 
service. Many of the flying personnel suffered physical 
disabilities, some the result of service overseas. The repair 
facilities were never adequate, and the Flights were at no 
time up to strength in pilots, observers, or mechanics, so 
that the personnel were always overworked. For most of 
the time during which the Flights operated no armourers 
were available, nor any efficient bomb sights, and the 
bombs themselves were stored, more often than not, under 
tarpaulins in open fields, with the result that many failed 
to explode when dropped. Few Flights had regular obser- 
vers and they had to rectify this deficiency by borrowing 
the services of trawler hands from local naval authorities.^ 
These various troubles were of a trying kind, but the per- 
sonnel suffered most perhaps from the housing conditions 
on the aerodromes. Many were under canvas, or else were 
scattered in billets at distances up to two miles from their 
stations. In October 191 8 the Vice-Admiral Commanding 
the East Coast of England wrote to the Admiralty urging 
the immediate provision of huts. *The matter', he said, 
'is one that is of very great importance from a naval point 
'of view, inasmuch as the absence of proper accommodation 
'will undoubtedly react on the efficiency of the aerial 
'escorts and anti-submarine patrols during the winter 
'months.' The following extracts from the records of the 
FHghts give an idea of the conditions under which they 
sometimes had to work: 

^ Patrol work was usually done by the D.H.6 flown as a single-seater and 
carr^'ing bombs and light wireless equipment. For convoy work, however, 
a two-seater was considered essential with an observer trained in the use 
of the Aldis signalling lamp. The general proportion was 75 per cent, 
single-seaters and 25 per cent, two-seaters. 


^Camp at Tynemouth, flooded out ; all men's clothing 
'and bedding wet through and in a disgraceful con- 
'dition. Some of the tents blown down, others float- 
'ing about. Endeavouring to billet the men in the 

'Officers' marquee at Elford collapsed during last 
'night ; impossible to re-erect as canvas is rotten. Men's 
'field kitchen has no cover. Cooking only possible in 
'boilers and field urns out in the open.' 

'AH tents at Seahouses flattened, messing being 
'arranged in temporary billet. Whole situation most 
'unsatisfactory, but am powerless to provide huts.' 
The Air Ministry had placed orders for an adequate 
number of huts to serve as winter quarters many months 
before, but manufacturers, confronted with difficulties and 
delays in obtaining the requisite material and labour, could 
not keep to their promised dates for delivery and it was 
not until the end of the war that the first huts were dis- 

In spite, however, of the unsatisfactory conditions under 
which the Flights worked, on the ground and in the air, 
they played their somewhat lonely and monotonous part 
with a will which more than once earned the admiration 
of the naval authorities with whom they co-operated. The 
opinion of naval officers who had the best opportunities 
to judge was that, in the patrolled areas, the U-boat com- 
manders were continuously hampered in their operations. 
Off the north-east coast, during a period of four months in 
191 8, the greatest losses in merchant shipping occurred on 
a day when no aircraft could go out because of the strength 
of the wind. Off the coasts of Cornwall the experience 
was somewhat similar. There was a day in August 191 8 
when, in this area, merchant ships passed on their way un- 
hindered so long as the air patrols were maintained, but in 
the afternoon, when the onset of heavy weather drove the 
aircraft patrols in, four ships were attacked and two of 
them destroyed. What the Lords Commissioners of the 
Admiralty thought of the patrols was set out in a letter 
to the Air Council in August 191 8. 'They are of the 
'opinion', said the letter, 'that considerable credit is due 

334 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

*to pilots who first undertook the anti-submarine work, 
'flying land machines over sea, particularly in the case of 
'those using D.H.6 type, a training machine of poor per- 
'formance, and by no means suited for this class of work. 
'If the Air Council see no objection My Lords suggest 
'that an expression of appreciation may be conveyed to the 
'officers concerned — in addition to such other action as the 
'Air Council may think desirable.' 

Admiralty Air Requirements 

Needless to say the D.H.6 organization did not meet the 
considered needs of the navy for anti-submarine work by 
aeroplanes. In April 191 8 the Admiralty completed a 
statement of its general policy for the employment of air- 
craft in the U-boat campaign under the following head- 

I. Coastal Areas. An operational air group to be formed 
for each strategic area. The head-quarters to be in im- 
mediate touch with the senior naval officer and with the 
local base intelligence office, and linked by telephone with 
all air stations and wireless stations in the Group. 

{a) Kite balloons to furnish an escort to convoys, and 
to work with hunting flotillas, as suitable surface 
craft for towing them become available. 

(Jd) Airships to be employed principally for escort duties 
and in searching in advance of convoys; also to co- 
operate with hunting flotillas, in diverting traffic, 
and in searching for mines. 

(<:) Aeroplanes of a suitable type to maintain intensive 
patrol of an inshore zone up to 15 or 20 miles from 
the coast to assist in escort work, and to take it over 
in weather when airships cannot operate within that 
zone. A specially equipped squadron also to be 
maintained on a mobile basis to be disposed as 
necessary in relation to intelligence regarding the 
movements of enemy submarines. A Flight of the 
squadron to be prepared to leave at immediate 
notice to attack a submarine or to co-operate with 
surface-hunting craft anywhere within range, irre- 


spective of whether the position was in the inshore 
zone or not. 

{d) Seaplanes to work further to seaward, carrying out 
sweeps, escorting shipping, co-operating with hunt- 
ing craft, and working hydrophones, when weather 
permits, in any area within range. 

{e) The personnel to be specially trained in submarine 

(/) Each station to have its own wireless equipment to 
enable aircraft on patrol to communicate. 

{g) A system of Direction-Finding Stations to be estab- 

II. Barrage. So far as their endurance permitted air- 
craft would patrol each barrage area, co-operate with 
surface craft, and endeavour to compel the U-boats to 
dive into deep mine-fields. 

III. Deep Sea Work, In the first instance, work over deep 
sea areas would be undertaken by kite balloons. Experi- 
ments would also be made in fitting two auxiliary cruisers 
to carry seaplanes, and in towing airships from surface craft. 

IV. Attacks upon Enemy Bases. Enemy bases in Belgium 
would be attacked as nearly continuously as possible. 
Attacks on bases in Germany would be made as oppor- 
tunity offered, and as the range of aircraft operating 
either from towed lighters, from ships, or from the coast, 

In accordance with the above general scheme, strategical 
positions for air stations were provisionally selected, and a 
chart of the British islands on which the proposed disposi- 
tions of the aircraft were marked was sent to the Air 

The Admiralty stated that they did not expect that air- 
craft could be supplied in the immediate future, but that 
the dispositions shown represented what should be worked 
to as soon as possible.^ The following points were made: 

^ A School for anti-submarine observers was opened at Aldeburgh. 
Books dealing with U-boat tactics, &c., were compiled by the Admiralty 
and issued to the air stations, which were also visited by expert lecturers. 

^ It was subsequently stated that the programme of expansion should 
be fulfilled by the end of 191 8. 

336 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

'l. Aeroplanes. 

\a) For the present, 27 Flights of D.H.6 have been 
'arranged for patrol of various parts of the British coast 
'and a further 5 Flights are being arranged for use by 
'U.S. Air Force in Ireland. The use of D.H.6 machines 
'is recognized as a temporary expedient until a type 
'of machine specially designed for submarine hunting is 

\b) Proposals for the building of such a type of aero- 
'plane have been approved by Their Lordships and for- 
'v^arded to the Air Ministry.^ 

\c) 36 squadrons of the latter type (648 machines) are 
'eventually required for coastal patrol. 

'This number is required on the basis of having one 
'Duty FHght, one Stand By Flight, and one Stand Off 
'Flight for each sub-area, and one Hunting Squadron for 
'each area to be disposed in relation to intelligence received. 
'To begin w^ith, it is suggested that the various stations 
'should only be equipped v^ith tv^o Flights each and fitted 
'up in priority in relation to enemy activity to their full 

\d) It is proposed that the U.S.A. should supply the 
'personnel and eventually the vsrhole equipment of nine 
'of the above squadrons, for use in Ireland, but to begin 
'v^ith all equipment except personnel v^ould require to be 

^ The proposal was for a two-seater 'pusher', or twin-engined tractor, 
giving a clear view ahead and below, to carry one 500-lb. bomb or two 
230-lb. bombs, machine-gun, and wireless transmitting and receiving sets. 
The aeroplane was to be fitted with a flotation gear, was to carry a minimum 
of four hours' fuel supply, to be capable of a slow landing on small aero- 
dromes, and to be equipped with reliable and silenced engine, or engines. At 
the same time, specifications were communicated to the Air Ministry for the 
approved large flying boat, and for a small boat seaplane. The large flying 
boat (large America type), for long-distance reconnaissance, bombing, 
and hydrophone work, was to carry two 500-lb. bombs, be able to get off 
a rough sea, have silent engines easy to start or restart, and was to have 
an endurance of 600 miles for reconnaissance of the Heligoland Bight with- 
out the aid of lighters. The small single-engined flying boat was required 
for hydrophone work. It was to be capable of carrying one 500-lb. or two 
230-lb. bombs, machine-guns, and wireless receiving and transmitting sets. 
The endurance was to be four hours and the cruising speed 60 knots. 


'provided by the R.A.F. It is understood that the U.S. 
'Air Force are willing to undertake this.^ 

'2. Aeroplanes, 

'The above establishment is exclusive of the machines 
'required for the Boulogne, Yarmouth, Ostend area, where 
'machines must be able to defend themselves, and for that 
'area 13 Flights of D.H.9 or other light bombers capable 
'of self-defence are required. 

'3. Seaplanes, 

'(i) Float type or Small Boat. 1 80 machines or 30 Flights 
'are required at present. Unless a machine of the above 
'type is evolved of sufficiently good performance to justify 
'its separate existence, it is intended that this type should 
'die out, being replaced by the Large Boat type when the 
'production of the latter type and facilities for housing 
'at the various stations which now use Float Seaplanes have 
'been arranged. 

'(ii) Large Americas. 165 are at present required to be 
'produced and maintained from British resources. When 
'this number has been attained a further 180 are required 
'to replace the Float Seaplanes now in use, the substitu- 
'tion being made in such a manner that a total of not less 
'than 363 seaplanes, including both small and large, are 
'in commission at any one time. There are 12 Docking 
'Lighters arranged for, and these can be used as temporary 
'mobile bases for a similar number of Large Americas in- 
'cluded in the above estimate. 54 Towing Lighters for 
'Large Americas have also been ordered. Their function 
'is for offensive operations against submarine bases, &c., 
'and it is anticipated that the wastage of aircraft used 
'on this duty will be much heavier than in general patrol 

'4. Airships, 

'It is proposed to retain the present North Sea type 
'until a Rigid type which is sufficiently good for working 

^ The U.S. Navy eventually found it impossible to supply the personnel 
for these squadrons. 
2504.6 >r 

338 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 191 8 [ch. x 

'with the Fleet and for long-range reconnaissance is pro- 
'duced. For the more local patrol work, it is proposed to 
'concentrate on the small S.S. Twin type of Airship and 
'when the present Coastal or C. Star Airships are worn out, 
'to utilize the shed space for a further number of S.S. 
'Twins, which have been included in the estimate.^ 

The factor which limited the expansion of naval air 
units, as of all others, was engine output. When, in July 
191 7, the Government decided that the air services should 
be doubled, the Large America flying-boat was enjoying 
a gratifying success against the submarine and against 
the Zeppelin. Towards the end of August 191 7, there- 
fore, when the Admiralty drew up revised plans for an 
expansion of the naval air service to comply with the 
Government decision, the number of Large Americas for 
the 191 8 programme was increased from 180 (as estimated 
in May 191 7) to 426. Of this number 150 were to be 
allotted to stations in the Orkneys in accordance with the 
scheme for a North Sea mine barrage, at that time in course 
of development. In addition to the large flying-boats, the 
expansion programme allowed for the provision of 413 
float seaplanes, 122 'Baby' seaplanes, 431 light aeroplanes, 
and 36 bombing aeroplanes. 

The life of the Large America type was reckoned as six 
months, so that 852 would be required in 191 8 to maintain 
an establishment of 426. It soon became clear, however, 
that an output of this kind was impossible unless new 
faciHties for the construction of the flying-boats were pro- 
vided. Eventually the United States Navy Department 
agreed to help by equipping the seaplane stations at Brest, 
Waterford, Queenstown, Berehaven, and at Lough Swilly. 
Furthermore, the establishments of the English stations 
were cut down, and as a result of these measures the total 

^ The first S.S. Twin was designed and built at Mullion. She was 
wrecked on the 15th of March, a fortnight after her first flight. The S.S. 
T.I. was completed at Wormwood Scrubbs in April 191 8. The Twins 
were equipped with two 75 horse-power Rolls-Royce engines. The car, 
of watertight construction, was streamlined. Approval was given in June 
191 8 for the construction of 115 S.S. Twins and of 53 portable sheds, 
delivery to be completed by July 19 19. 


number of Large Americas to be kept in commission in 
191 8 was reduced from 426 to 234. The original figure in- 
cluded 60 flying-boats for the Mediterranean, but it was 
decided that Large Americas required for this theatre of 
operations must be built at Malta, so that the figure of 
234 applied only to home stations. The revised statement 
of requirements for 1918 (put forward in November 1917) 
was for 525 seaplanes (including flying-boats) and 66 aero- 
planes for home and anti-submarine work; 116 seaplanes, 
127 aeroplanes, and 100 torpedo-carrying aeroplanes for 
the Grand Fleet; 6 seaplanes and 240 aeroplanes for 
Dunkirk; and 264 seaplanes and 104 aeroplanes for the 
Mediterranean. This gave a total of 91 1 seaplanes and 637 
aeroplanes, 1,548 in all. These figures, however, did not 
include aircraft required for training, practice, experi- 
ment, or reserve. In addition, special proposals were put 
forward for aircraft to photograph enemy naval bases 
(18 D.H.4's plus 6 in reserve); for a special striking force 
of 18 D.H.4's (plus 6 reserve), 18 torpedo aeroplanes (6 
reserve), and 9 Large Americas (3 reserve) to be based at 
or near Yarmouth for attacks on enemy minesweepers, 
raiding forces, &c.; and, finally, for 50 Large Americas 
for bombing operations.^ 

The Air Board, however, stated that, because of the 
engine supply position, especially as it concerned Rolls- 
Royce engines, even this reduced programme could not be 
fulfilled. It was estimated that no more than 170 Large 
Americas could be provided by the end of May 1918,^ 
and this number, added to 34 in service, gave a total of 
only 204, with no allowance for wastage. In accordance 
with this estimate the Board of Admiralty approved naval 
air requirements, of flying-boats, up to June 1918, as 133 
Large Americas for anti-submarine work and for recon- 
naissance, and 36 for the North Sea barrage. In addition, 
50 would be required for the proposed offensive opera- 
tions from lighters. 

^ The intention was to convey these flying-boats within striking dis- 
tance of their objectives. Some 54 lighters were ordered for this purpose, 
but the scheme was afterwards abandoned. 

^ By the end of May only 104 had been delivered. 

340 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

The new statement of requirements put forward by the 
Admiralty to the Air Ministry in April 191 8, to which 
reference has already been made,^ asked for 459 seaplanes 
(including 114 Large Americas to be supplied by the Air 
Ministry only in the event of the United States finding 
it impossible to provide them) and 726 aeroplanes (includ- 
ing 162 for Ireland to be manned by U.S.A. personnel) 
for home and anti-submarine work; and for 8 seaplanes 
and 194 aeroplanes for the Grand Fleet. It was hoped 
that this programme would be fulfilled at the end of 
191 8. For purposes of comparison, the requirements, and 
the position as it was at the end of the war, so far as home 
waters are concerned, are tabulated below: 







Requirements for 191 8 as estimated in 

November 1917 ... 525 



Revised programme of requirements 

for 1918 . . . . . 




On Operations Stations on the ist of 

January 191 8 . 




On Operations Stations on the 9th of 

November 191 8 




In April 191 8 one squadron of Blackburn Kangaroo 
twin-engined aeroplanes was established on the East Coast, 
and this type of aircraft, with its good view ahead and fair 
speed, proved very successful. Between the ist of May 
191 8 and the declaration of the Armistice these aeroplanes 
spent a total of 600 hours on patrol, during which they 
sighted twelve U-boats and attacked eleven of them. They 
thus sighted one submarine for an average of 50 hours 
flying, which compares with 196 hours for the Large 
America flying-boats, and with 2,416 hours for coastal air- 
ships. A few D.H.4 and D.H.9 aeroplanes had also been 
provided before the Armistice, and more were being sub- 
stituted for the D.H.6 type when the war ended. 

p. 334- 


Hydrophone Experiments 

Experiments to detect the presence of submarines from 
the noise they made when under way were begun early in 
191 5 and resulted in the production of several hydrophones 
of a fixed, or non-directional, type. In 191 6 hydrophone 
shore stations were established at a few places near which 
U-boat activity was pronounced, and a sea-service instru- 
ment was also evolved, but it could be used only when 
the listening vessel had been brought to a standstill. 
Gradually, however, the design was improved until detec- 
tion was possible at low speeds. All that might be learned 
from these early instruments was that a submarine was in 
the neighbourhood, but in the spring of 191 7 an apparatus 
with directional qualities was evolved, although it still 
suffered from the drawback that the listening vessels could 
obtain results only so long as they moved very slowly. 
Experiment, inside and outside the service, continued 
intensively, and in the summer of 191 7 a new type of 
instrument, called the Fish Hydrophone, promised greater 
success, especially at fair speeds, than anything hitherto 
achieved. After modifications in the design, satisfactory 
trials with the Fish model were made in October 191 7, 
and supply began shortly afterwards. In July 191 8 a 
new towed directional-type instrument, known as the 
Torpoise', was produced at the Hawkcraig Experimental 

The possibilities connected with the employment of 
hydrophones by aircraft possessed strong appeal. Whereas 
a U-boat might hear surface craft engaged in a hunt, and go 
to the bottom to avoid them, nothing of the noise made by 
aircraft engines could be heard in a submerged submarine. 
Furthermore, aircraft might go to any point, where U- 
boat activity was reported, unaffected by intervening shoals 
or land, and could arrive before the slower-moving surface 
craft came upon the scene to confuse hydrophone listen- 
ing. A drawback was that aircraft were more restricted in 
their work by the weather than surface craft. Experiments 
were made with seaplanes in the Aegean in the spring of 
191 7, but the hydrophones used were of the fixed type, and 

342 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 191 8 [ch. x 

the value of the trials was accordingly limited. Early in 
1 91 8 experiments of promise were made at the Westgate 
Air Station, but it was proved that seaplanes of the float 
type, such as were employed during the trials, were not 
very suitable on account of their poor sea-going qualities, 
and the experiments were therefore transferred to Large 
America flying-boats. 

In the design of apparatus ultimately adopted, a small, 
single-diaphragm, bi-directional hydrophone, of a total 
weight of 27 lb., was mounted at the end of a rattan, or 
hollow wood spar, free to revolve inside a streamlined 
outer casing attached by gymbals to a short outrigger. A 
handle at the top of the spar served to rotate the hydro- 
phone and to indicate its direction. When in use, the 
hydrophone hung vertically from the gymbals and about 
ten feet below the surface of the water. By means of a 
tricing line, which also served as a steadying guy, the hydro- 
phone could be hoisted up and braced to the side of the 
fuselage, a process which required no more than a few 
seconds. The upper end of the hydrophone was discon- 
nected from the outrigger during flight and housed in a 
bracket above the gunport, where it offered negligible air 
resistance and in no way interfered with the handling of 
the aircraft. Hydrophones were fitted in a number of 
Large America type boats and also in a few float seaplanes. 
The necessity for stopping the engines while listening, 
however, and the uncertainty of re-starting after listening, 
coupled with the fact that the number of flying-boats avail- 
able barely sufficed for ordinary patrol work, precluded 
any notable employment of hydrophones on service with 
heavier-than-air craft during the remainder of the war. 

Towards the end of 191 7 hydrophone experiments were 
made from airships. The trials began with the assumption 
that the airship must remain in the air while using the 
instrument, which must accordingly be towed through the 
water. There were many technical difficulties to be over- 
come before a suitable towed hydrophone could be evolved, 
but in the spring of 191 8 a fair measure of success was 
achieved during trials in the Wash, when it was clearly 
demonstrated that, in fair weather conditions, listening 


was possible, with engines stopped, at a drifting speed up 
to eight knots. Other, and more promising trials were 
made at the MuUion airship station, where hydrophones 
came into fairly regular use on Zero type airships. They 
- were sufficiently successful to induce the Admiralty to 
order a standardized 'single eel' type hydrophone for em- 
ployment in all Zero airships, but the instruments had not 
been delivered when the war ended. 

Anti-submarine Aircraft Patrols 

The total mileage flown by aircraft on anti-submarine 
patrol in home waters in 191 8, as compared with 191 7, was : ^ 




Seaplanes and aeroplanes 











Submarines were sighted and attacked as follows : 







Seaplanes and aeroplanes 












It will be observed that the increase in the number of 
submarines sighted in 191 8 was in no way proportionate 
to the increase in the mileage flown. A submarine was found 
by aeroplanes or seaplanes in 191 7 for every 6,219 miles 
flown, but in 191 8 for every 21,499 i^il^s, and the mileage 
per effective attack by heavier-than-air craft jumped from 
41,166 to 389,381. This increase was due in part to the 
employment of aeroplanes for inshore patrol. When U- 
boat commanders were operating close in during daylight 
hours they normally maintained diving trim in order that 

^ For a detailed table of anti-submarine air patrols from the 1st of May 
to the 1 2th of November 191 8, see Appendix XVII. 

344 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

they might get out of sight quickly. There is not much 
doubt also that the Germans made greater progress in 
tactics and appliances, aimed at avoiding attack from the 
air, than the air service did in making attack more effective. 
In 1 91 8, for example, most U-boats were fitted w^ith alti- 
scopes through v^hich they could, without coming to the 
surface, see whether aircraft were about. Even so, it is 
clear that excellent results were obtained by aeroplanes of 
a fair speed which had also a good view ahead and below, ^ 
and it is possible that had more of this type been available 
for patrol there would have been a reduction rather than 
an increase in the mileage per submarine sighted. 

Although the mileage flown by airships was two and a half 
times greater in 1 91 8 than in 191 7, the number of submarines 
sighted and attacked was smaller. The reasons are probably 
the same as those given above for aeroplanes and seaplanes. 
In particular, it should be remembered that the size and 
slower speed of airships made it easier for them to be 
detected through the altiscope and therefore to be avoided. 

It may be repeated that the respect paid by the U-boat 
commanders to aircraft meant that important stretches 
of sea were kept free for shipping. From some areas, which 
were closely patrolled, the U-boats were driven away 
altogether, and in others they were compelled to maintain 
a diving patrol, as a result of which it was calculated that 
the average length of a U-boat's cruise in the North Sea 
was reduced from seven days to five days. To sum up, the 
anti-submarine aircraft organization may be likened to 
that of a police force. The police are not to be judged only, 
or even mainly, by the number of miscreants they capture, 
but by the effectiveness of their prevention, or in other 
words, by the degree of protection afforded to the law- 
abiding citizen. If the number of hours spent on patrol in 
a year by the Metropolitan police, for example, could be 
set down beside the number of convictions obtained, the 
statistics might bear some resemblance to those for aircraft 
patrols and U-boats sunk. An increase of police patrol 
hours in any one year which was accompanied by a fall in 
the number of convictions, would probably be read as 
' See Appendix XVIII. 


proof of an increase in the effectiveness of the police 
service. It might be misleading to lay stress upon the simi- 
larities, but it is right to say that the value of the anti- 
submarine aircraft patrols in the v^ar is to be judged in the 
light of the limitations they imposed on the activities of 
the U-boat commanders, and not by the number of sub- 
marines destroyed. Time and again the underv^ater craft 
were scared av^ay from convoys by escorting aircraft, and 
that no more than six attacks v^ere made in 191 8 on con- 
voyed ships during more than 7,000 air escort journeys is 
perhaps the best index to the efficacy of the air patrol v^ork. 

U-boats destroyed 

Of the U-boats attacked by aircraft in co-operation v^ith 
surface craft in 191 8, there is not much doubt that sixv^ere 
destroyed, and about tv^enty-five damaged, most of them 
slightly. A brief account of some of the attacks on 
German submarines will here be given. On the 30th of 
May the s.s. DungenesSy while in a convoy off Sunderland, 
was torpedoed by a submarine, which was not identified. 
The U-boat was seen from a D.H.6 aeroplane, which 
bombed her, and she was afterwards attacked with depth- 
charges from surface craft. About three hours later the 
submarine was sighted awash off Seaham by a Sopwith 
'Baby' seaplane which dropped a bomb close to her con- 
ning tower as she was going under. Light signals from the 
seaplane brought a destroyer and a Blackburn Kangaroo 
aeroplane to the scene, but the U-boat had disappeared, 
and she was not found again until the following night when, 
about 9.15 p.m., she was seen moving under the water 
near Seaham, from an F.E.zb aeroplane which had been 
sent out from the Seaton Carew air station to take part in 
a special hunt. The pilot dived and two lOO-lb. bombs 
were dropped astride the blurred outline of the U-boat. 
The explosion of the bombs attracted the destroyer Locust, 
one of the hunting craft, which raced to the spot and 
dropped a depth charge. When the water thrown up by 
the explosion had subsided, the aeroplane observer could 
still detect the outline of the submarine beneath the sur- 
face, and he was able to indicate, by hand signals, where 

346 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

additional depth charges should be dropped. After the 
fourth had exploded, the conning-tower and side of the 
submarine suddenly broke surface, and she turned slowly 
over before sinking: it is possible that she had suffered 
some damage during the attacks on the previous evening. 

In the early morning of the 12th of August four D.H.4's 
of No. 217 Squadron (Dunkirk), led by Captain K. G. 
Boyd, while on patrol in formation near Ostend, sighted 
a submarine, half-blown, heading towards the Belgian port. 
The patrol attacked in line, and eight 230-lb. bombs, with 
2-| seconds' delay-action fuses, were dropped from heights 
between 200 and 1,000 feet. The first bomb, dropped by 
the leader, hit the port side of the submarine, which rolled 
over and lay bottom upwards while the other bombs were 
bursting about her. She sank within five minutes, and there 
is reason to believe she was the U.B.12 which met her end 
in the southern part of the North Sea about this time in 
unknown circumstances. 

A fortnight later there was another successful attack. 
Soon after midday on the 28th of August the s.s. Giralda 
was hit by a torpedo east of Kettleness, and three trawlers 
which went to help her found a faint ripple on the water, 
possibly caused by a hidden submarine. Depth charges 
were dropped and the position was buoyed. At 3.25 in 
the afternoon the pilot and observer (Lieutenants E. F. 
Waring and H. J. Smith) in a Blackburn Kangaroo aero- 
plane from Seaton Carew examined the area, and the 
account of their subsequent adventure reads as follows : 
*I have the honour to report that whilst on anti-submarine 
'patrol on Blackburn Kangaroo 9983, I sighted a long oil 
'slick, close in shore, about five miles away from me, just 
'as the south bound convoy was passing Runswick Bay. I 
'altered course to investigate and sighted a submarine (sub- 
'merged) in position 54-31 N. 0.40 W. She appeared to be 
'lying on the bottom and did not alter her position. I got 
'into position over her and released one 520-lb. bomb 
'which detonated about 30 ft. from her starboard bow. 
'Quantities of thick dark oil rose to the surface and a long 
'succession of large bubbles, about 10 feet in diameter. We 
'fired red Very Lights and H.M.S. Ouse came to the spot 


'where bubbles were still rising and dropped 7 or 8 depth 
'charges round the position. The last depth charge ob- 
'served detonated directly on top of the hull of the sub- 
*marine.' The destroyer Ouse rejoined the convoy to which 
she was acting as part escort. About a fortnight later the 
wreckage of the German submarine — the U.C.yo — ^was 
found by divers : she was lying on a rocky bottom in about 
fourteen fathoms of water. 

The Ouse helped also in the destruction of another U- 
boat at the end of September. On the 29th a German 
submarine was lying on the bottom of the sea, in twenty- 
five fathoms of water, off Newbiggin Point. It was a 
Sunday afternoon and the crew were perhaps taking a rest, 
as they might do with quiet mind because the sea was so 
calm there was small chance that they could operate, un- 
discovered, against surface craft. It was the flat calm, how- 
ever, which in the end led to their destruction. It happened 
that while the crew were at ease, the tiniest of leakages in 
one of the U-boat's tanks was causing a thread of oil to 
carry a message to the surface of the sea. The patch formed 
on the water was of the faintest, but the sea was so un- 
troubled that the discoloration might just attract the 
notice of an experienced air observer if one, by chance, 
approached close enough. This condition was about to be 
fulfilled. The Scandinavian convoy was on its way from 
the Tyne escorted by destroyers and by armed trawlers, 
and with the rigid airship ^.29, from East Fortune, 
overhead. At 1.25 p.m. the slight patch of oil attracted 
the curiosity of the airship crew and a message, 'Oil patch 
^rising below me', was flashed to the Ouse, the leading 
destroyer. She at once altered course and raced for the 
position, but she could see nothing and signalled: 'Drop 
'light over it'. By way of reply a 230-lb. bomb was dropped 
from the airship and the Ouse, when calm had been restored, 
began to drop depth-charges. Other escorting destroyers 
and trawlers joined in the attack, and a second 230-lb. 
bomb was also dropped from the airship: at 2.30 p.m. 
oil v/as reported rising to the surface in great quantities. 
The convoy had by this time drawn away and the escorting 
ships, except two trawlers fitted with hydrophones, left to 

348 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

rejoin the merchant vessels. The R.2g remained in the 
area of the oil patch until 4 p.m., when she also rejoined 
the convoy. The submarine may have been the U.B.ii^y 
v^hich had left her base at Zeebrugge on the i8th of 
September for a cruise off the north-east coast of England 
and was never heard of again. 

Earlier in the same month, on the loth, the destroyer 
Ophelia was east of the Orkneys, flying a kite-balloon when, 
about 6.20 a.m., the observer (Lieutenant S. G. Mawdsley, 
R.A.F.) in the basket of the balloon reported a black object 
on the port bow. As the destroyer altered course and bore 
down upon the object it was revealed as the conning- 
tower of a submarine. The U-boat quickly disappeared 
under the water, but two charges, set to depths of 200 feet, 
were dropped through the oil patch which marked the 
position where she had been. The destroyer passed across 
the spot again and dropped a third depth-charge, after 
which she circled the position for some time. A few 
minutes after the explosion of the third depth-charge, the 
observer in the balloon telephoned to the ship that an 
upheaval had taken place under the water: the destroyer 
thereupon returned to the position and found much fuel- 
oil rising to the surface. The submarine was possibly the 
U.B.83, which never returned to her base. 

In the next successful encounter a non-rigid airship, the 
s.s. Z.J., from the Capel station, near Folkestone, took a 
part and the pilot was an American, Ensign N. J. Learned.^ 
In the afternoon of the i6th of September, while the 
airship was making a routine patrol, a line of oil was seen to 
be slowly forming about seven miles from Capel. For half 
an hour the airship followed the line until it ceased in an 
extending patch of oil. The airship signalled patrol boats 
to investigate and a depth-charge dropped from one of 
them led to two explosions which, half an hour later, were 
followed by a third. Such was the end of the U.B.103. 

Submarine Attacks on Convoys 
It was not possible to provide aircraft along the coast 
in sufficient numbers or of the latest type to accompany 
* Engineer, W. H. King; Wireless Operator, D. Paton. 


all convoys, but when aircraft were present they con- 
tributed effectively to the security of the ships. An instance 
of an attack on a convoy escorted by aircraft occurred on 
the 26th of December 191 7. On that day the airship C.2j^ 
had left her station at MuUion about 1 1 a.m. to search east 
of Falmouth to ensure that the way was clear for the start- 
ing out of a convoy of 24 ships. At 2.20 p.m. the convoy 
was in line ahead with its escort of two destroyers and ten 
armed trawlers on the starboard side and the airship on the 
windward (port) side. At 3 p.m., when the airship was 
steering east for the head of the line some distance away, 
it was seen that one of the leading ships had been hit by a 
torpedo. The €,23 A moved at full speed towards the ship, 
which was about seven miles distant, and three minutes 
later saw a second ship torpedoed. At 3.10 p.m. the airship 
had reached the position, and within three minutes one of 
the two ships which had been hit, sank: the second tor- 
pedoed vessel was abandoned. The airship continued to 
patrol between the derelict vessel and the convoy, and at 
3.40 p.m. a torpedo was seen to break surface astern of the 
last ship of the group. The airship at once sought the 
beginning of the torpedo track and dropped two loo-lb. 
bombs with delay-action fuses, but the sea was rough and 
no results were observed. The airship crew kept watch 
over the rear of the convoy for another hour, but no trace 
of the U-boat was discovered. 

In 191 8 air escort work in protection of convoys greatly 
increased. The statistics are as follow: 

attacked while 
in convoy. 

Aeroplane and Seaplane 4,869 2 

Airships 2,141 I 

Kite-balloons 131 3 

In comparing the number of the escortings by different 
types of aircraft it should be remembered that aeroplane 

^ The figures for the number of escorts do not refer to separate convoys, 
but to individual aircraft. One convoy, for example, might be picked up by 
relays of aircraft from different stations along the coast. 

350 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

and seaplane escorts were of short duration, that airships 
kept company for longer periods, and that kite-balloon 
escortings usually extended to several days. A word or two 
may be said about the occasions on which vessels were 
attacked while in convoy. On a day in July 191 8 a sub- 
marine was reported in the vicinity of a convoy by an 
escorting D.H.6 from the Redcar air station. Shortly 
afterwards a torpedo was seen to be approaching one of the 
leading ships, and the crew in the aeroplane dropped a 
flare, enabling the ship to alter course and avoid the tor- 
pedo. 'The aeroplane's prompt action undoubtedly saved 
'the convoy', said the Vice- Admiral's report of the episode. 
Another instance of attack on a convoy when under escort 
by aeroplanes occurred in August 191 8, in the area of the 
Fame Islands. An escorting D.H.6 was flying close to the 
convoy, in a rain-storm, when one of the ships, the Swedish 
s.s. Jonkofing^ was hit and immediately sank. The pilot 
of the aeroplane flew seawards from the wreck and found a 
submarine faintly outlined near the surface. He dived and 
released a loo-lb. bomb, but the poor visibility due to the 
rain made it impossible to see what the effect of the bomb 
was. The one occasion in 191 8 when an airship escort was 
present when an attack was made was during the assembly 
of a convoy off Trevose Head at a time when the airship 
was about five miles distant from the ships. In two of the 
three instances in which kite-balloons were concerned, the 
U-boat attacks were made at early dawn when the visibility 
was no more than 800 yards and when the balloons were 
being flown from ships some distance from the attacked 
vessel. It is of interest also that two successful attacks on 
convoys were made in 191 8 very soon after kite-balloons 
had been hauled down. 

Mine-fields in the Heligoland Bight 

A broad belt of mine-fields had been laid across the 
Heligoland Bight with the original object of barring the 
passage of U-boats. The Germans, however, marked a 
numbers of channels by buoys and swept these channels as 
continuously as possible, with the result that the goings 
and comings of the U-boats had not been unduly restricted. 


Although the vigilance of the enemy was successful in 
keeping the Bight open, the British Admiralty decided to 
maintain the mine barrage in 191 8. The mines had not 
stopped the passage of the U-boats, but they had sunk 
several of them : the mines constituted a hindrance and a 
constant danger, and it was desirable that their pressure, 
though it fell far short of previous hopes, should be con- 

The movements and intentions of German vessels in 
the Bight area were often known in advance to the naval 
intelligence division in Whitehall. Air reconnaissances of 
the mine-fields, therefore, and of the German mine-sweep- 
ing activities, were only exceptionally required. On the 
other hand, if British aircraft rarely appeared the German 
authorities would, when they found precise British counter- 
action following upon sweeping operations, have cause for 
suspicion, and they might be led to form conclusions about 
the sources of the British information. It was desirable 
they should assume that the information came from the air, 
and reconnaissances extending to the outer portions of the 
Bight were therefore planned on the basis that the more 
the enemy mine-sweepers or other vessels saw of the British 
aircraft the better.^ 

The section of the mine barrage in the area of Terschel- 
ling was kept under observation by flying-boats operating 
direct from Yarmouth, that in the western Bight by 
flying-boats launched from towed lighters, and in the 
northern and eastern Bight by aeroplanes carried in the 

^ The Germans assumed, as it was desired (and natural) that they should, 
that air reconnaissance gave the necessary information. *The English were 
'particularly anxious to know where we were sweeping for mines, the clear 
'channels for our submarines, and how the boats were piloted in and out. 
'Seaplanes were told off to obtain this information. . . . We could always 
'take it for granted that whenever our minesweepers were observed at their 
'work, the area which they had cleared would again become infested with 
'mines during the next few days.' (Kapitanleutnant MoU in Die deutschen 
Luftstreitkrdfte im Weltkriege, p. 550.) 

2 The Furious J the flagship of Rear-Admiral R. F. Phillimore, Admiral 
Commanding Aircraft, rejoined the Grand Fleet, after re-fit, in March 
1918. See Vol. IV, pp. 34-6. 

352 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

The suggestion that lighters should be used to carry 
flying-boats across the North Sea, and so increase their 
radius of action, had been put forward by Commander J. C. 
Porte at Felixstowe in September 191 6. He had supplied 
a rough sketch of the type of special craft he had in mind 
which must, he stated, be strong enough to be towed at 
about twenty-five knots by a destroyer. His sketch showed 
a lighter which could be submerged by the flooding of tanks : 
after the flying-boat (each lighter was to carry one) had 
been floated in, the craft, through the ejection of water 
from the tanks by means of compressed air, would rise 
clear for towing. Admiralty representatives paid a visit to 
Felixstowe, and following a talk with Commander Porte a 
design had been begun without delay. It was decided that 
only the after end of the lighter should be submerged and 
that the flying-boat should be hauled up by a winch fitted 
on the fore deck. Steel construction was adopted in order 
that part of the hull might be used as an airtight trimming 

In January 191 7 orders for four lighters had been 
placed, and the first was successfully tested at the builder's 
works in June. Towing trials which followed in the Solent 
were of such promise that the director of the naval air 
service proposed, in July, to order fifty additional lighters, 
but the Board of Admiralty thought it advisable that fur- 
ther trials should first be made in the North Sea. These 
took place, under the direction of Commodore R. Y. 
Tyrwhitt, at the beginning of September 191 7, when a 
lighter, carrying a flying-boat, was towed at speeds up to 
thirty-two knots. As a result it was decided to build 
twenty-five more lighters immediately— a number subse- 
quently increased to fifty. Their construction was under- 
taken at the new Government shipyard at Richborough 
by Royal Engineers, and the first had been completed in 
May 191 8: thirty-one of the fifty had been delivered by 
the end of the war. 

Some of these lighters were put to a use different from 
that which had been intended. In the summer of 191 8 
it was suggested that a few should be fitted with fixed 
wood flying-off platforms to accommodate a single-seater 


fighter aeroplane, and trials revealed that in suitable con- 
ditions of weather Sopwith 'Camels' could be flown off. 
The Admiralty attached much importance to this develop- 
ment because it promised a means of transporting fighting 
aeroplanes for daylight attacks upon Zeppelins in the North 
Sea, and upon German seaplanes near their bases. A total 
of twelve lighters were so fitted with flying-off platforms: 
they were equipped with a derrick to salve the aeroplane 
after flight, but, in practice, this seldom proved possible. 

It was hoped eventually to employ the flying-boats, 
carried in the lighters, for a bombing offensive against the 
German naval bases in the North Sea.^ Meanwhile, in 
order that experience might be gained in their handling, 
it was decided that they should first be used to extend the 
air reconnaissance in the Heligoland Bight, and in February 
191 8 standing orders were drawn up which made provision 
for two forms of air reconnaissance, called Scheme 'A' and 
Scheme 'B'. Where the area to be reconnoitred was within 
150 miles radius of Yarmouth and therefore within range 
of Large America flying-boats operating from East Coast 
stations direct. Scheme 'B' was ordered. For areas outside 
this range, for which it was necessary to transport flying- 
boats by lighter, and to send a supporting naval squadron. 
Scheme 'A' was put into force. 

The first operation under the latter scheme took place 
on the 19th of March 1918. At 5.30 a.m. three destroyers, 
towing flying-boats in lighters, arrived, with a supporting 
force, off the German coast. The three flying-boats were 
in the air at 7 a.m. and they proceeded on reconnaissance 
patrol until about 8.30 a.m., when two German seaplanes 
from the naval air base at Borkum made an appearance. 
The flying-boats shot one of the enemy seaplanes down in 
flames, and completed their reconnaissance without fur- 
ther interruption, after which they flew home to their 
base direct. The supporting force had not long been back 
in harbour at Harwich on the 20th, when the Admiralty 

"^ Because of difficulties associated with forecasting the weather con- 
ditions in the North Sea, and because of technical progress made in the 
design of long-distance bombing aeroplanes, this project was abandoned 
in July 1918. 

2504.6 A a 

354 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

ordered that a similar operation be attempted next after- 
noon. Accordingly, at 6.30 a.m. on the 21st, the squadron 
sailed, and after picking up the destroyers with their 
lighters in tow, moved across the North Sea at 27 knots. 
Soon after midday the three Large Americas were in the 
air, and for about three hours they flew over mine-sweepers 
and destroyers in the Heligoland Bight, making careful 
note of the activity below them.^ For part of the time two 
German seaplanes kept within sight, but out of range, of 
the flying-boats. 

The air reconnaissance of the Bight disclosed, among 
other items of information, that mine-sweepers were clear- 
ing an area north of Ameland and Terschelling. On the 
2nd of April a new mine-field was duly laid, and flying- 
boats on the two following days went across from Yarmouth 
to see if the Germans were again sweeping. No enemy 
craft were seen and, acting on a belief that they might be 
working under cover of darkness, the Harwich Force 
attempted a raid on the night of the 4th/5th of April, but 
nothing happened. A little later in the month, however, 
the Admiralty had reason to assume that another expedi- 
tion would not meet with the same disappointment, and, 
on the morning of the 20th of April, the Harwich Force 
moved out of harbour. Two flying-boats, which had left 
Yarmouth at 8.55 a.m. to make a special reconnaissance, 
found, at 10.45 a.m., four German destroyers and four 
mine-sweepers at work north of Terschelling. Wireless 
messages giving the news were sent out from the flying- 
boats, but the signals were not picked up at Yarmouth air 
station. At 2.10 p.m., when the flying-boats had landed 
and reports had been made by word of mouth, the informa- 
tion about the enemy vessels was passed to the Harwich 
Force which at that time was nearing the Terschelling 
Light Vessel. Contact was made about 5 p.m., when British 
destroyers found the four German destroyers and fought a 
rapid action in which one vessel on each side was damaged. 

Air reconnaissances early in May indicated that the 

^ The Admiralty expressed appreciation of the way in which the recon- 
naissances had been made, and said that the air reports had given valuable 


Germans were sweeping a channel through the British 
mine-field north of the Frisian Coast, and Rear-Admiral 
Tyrwhitt was ordered to seek out and attack the enemy. 
The Harwich Force sailed on the 12th of May with three 
flying-boat lighters in the tow of destroyers. The ships 
assembled off Terschelling at 7 a.m. next morning, but a 
change in the weather, which became unfavourable for air 
reconnaissance, led to the abandonment of the enterprise. 

Destruction of a Xepfelin 

On the morning of the loth of May 191 8 the Zeppelin 
L.62 set out from Nordholz to make a routine patrol over 
the Heligoland mine-fields. As she flew, her course was 
plotted in an office in the British Admiralty, and because 
she was a naval airship she was temporarily identified by a 
girl's name, Clara.^ The drama of her destruction began 
with four successive code messages which told the air station 
at Killingholme of Clara^s progress across the squared chart 
of the North Sea. When the fourth signal was received, 
two minutes after midday, it was judged worth while to 
have a flying-boat ready to start upon receipt of the next 
message. More than an hour passed before this came in, 
at 1.08 p.m., and it gave what had been the position of the 
Zeppelin at 12.34 P-i^- By this time an idea of the prob- 
able movements of the L.62 had been obtained, and the 
flying-boat^ left at 1.20 p.m. with some expectation that 
the airship would be intercepted. The story of what 
followed may be read in the report of Captain A. H. 
Munday, the second pilot. 'At 4.30', he said, 'I observed 
'a German Zeppelin of the latest type on our port beam. 
'It was about 1,500 feet above our machine and, approxi- 
'mately, a mile away from us, and was proceeding due east 
'in the direction of Heligoland. I pointed it out to Captain 
Tattinson and he at once put the machine at its best 
'climbing angle. I went to the forward cockpit and tested 
'the gun and tried the mounting, and found everything 

I See Vol. Ill, p. 173. 

^ Crew: Captain T. C. Pattinson, first pilot; Captain A. H. Munday, 
second pilot; Sergeant H. R. Stubbington, engineer; Air-Mechanic John- 
son, wireless telegraphy operator. 

3S6 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

forked satisfactorily. The engineer rating immediately 
'proceeded to the rear gun cockpit and tested both port 
'and starboard guns. At this time our machine was at a 
'height of 6,000 feet. The hostile craft had evidently seen 
'us first, and was endeavouring to get directly over us in 
'order to attack us with bombs. When at a height of 8,000 
'feet and the Zeppelin had climbed to a height of 9,000 
'feet I opened the attack and fired about 125 rounds of 
'explosive ammunition. The engineer rating also opened 
'fire and fired about the same number of rounds. The 
'Zeppelin was about 500 yards distant. All our fire appeared 
'to hit the craft and little spurts of flame, our explosive 
'bullets, appeared all over the envelope. I noticed much, 
'what appeared to be v/ater, ballast, and many articles 
'being thrown overboard and then the nose of the hostile 
'craft went up a few degrees from the vertical: this was 
'apparently soon checked by the occupants, as the craft was 
'righted and commenced to climb as much as possible. I 
'had a gun stoppage and spent many minutes clearing it, 
'being obliged to take the breech of the gun to pieces. 

'The Zeppelin continued to climb and gain on us slightly 
'and again endeavoured to get directly over our machine. 
'The enemy succeeded and dropped five or six bombs. The 
'engineer rating reported to the first pilot (Captain Pattin- 
'son) that seven hostile destroyers were circling around 
'beneath us. We were now at a height of 11,000 feet and 
'the Zeppelin's height was approximately 12,500 feet. I 
'opened fire again and fired another 1 30 rounds of explosive 
'and tracer bullets. I noticed the propeller of the Zeppelin's 
'port engine almost stop and the craft suddenly steered 
'hard to port. I concluded that the port engine had been 
'hit by our gunfire as well as other parts of the craft, as the 
'envelope and gondolas seemed a background for all the 
'flashes of the explosive and tracer bullets. There was 
'much more outpourings of ballast and articles and con- 
'siderable smoke. I concluded that we had finished the 
'Zeppelin and informed Captain Pattinson that we had 
'bagged it. But the craft again headed for Holstein in a 
'crabwise fashion, emitting much smoke. I had other gun 
'stoppages and one bad jamb. One of the explosive bullets 

i9i8] END OF L.62 2>S7 

'exploded in the gun and flashed into my face and on to my 
'hand but outside of a few scratches I received no injury. 
'Our port engine commenced to give sHght trouble and 
'the engineer investigated. He reported that an oil feed 
'pipe had broken and that it v^ould not be long before it 
'would break in two. As soon as I had my gun cleared of 
'the trouble caused by the exploding of the explosive 
'bullet I signalled to Captain Pattinson that I was ready to 
're-attack and looked for the enemy craft. I saw it still 
'proceeding due east in a crabwise fashion. It was losing 
'height and emitting smoke which was of a black variety 
'though parts of it were pure white. The hostile destroyers 
'underneath opened fire on us and owing to engine trouble, 
'lack of petrol for our return journey, and being only about 
'60 miles off Heligoland we gave up the attack at 5.35, 
'having been attacking for one hour and five minutes. 

'The oil pipe broke in two and we were forced to glide 
'and land in a rough sea. The engineer quickly climbed on 
'to the top of the engine and repaired the break with tape. 
'Fifteen minutes later we took off. As the machine was 
'difficult to control. Captain Pattinson asked me to get 
'out and endeavour to ascertain whether we had damaged 
'the rudder or elevator in taking off and in looking back I 
'observed the German destroyers steaming with all possible 
'speed in our direction.' 

Exactly what happened on board the L.62 will never be 
known. Some time after the attack by the flying-boat the 
Zeppelin blew up, in flames: there were no survivors. 

The Admiralty ordered a reconnaissance of the eastern 
section of the Bight to take place on the i8th of May. The 
towed flying-boats were to be off the Horn Reefs Light 
Buoy ready to take the air at 4.45 a.m., and after com- 
pleting the reconnaissance they were to be met on the 
homeward journey by Large Americas from Yarmouth. 
Two flying-boats from Killingholme were under orders to 
leave at 2 a.m. to cover the withdrawal of the destroyers 
towing the empty lighters home. The operation passed 
off as planned and the reconnoitring flying-boats returned 
safely to Harwich after an uneventful flight of 470 miles. 

3S8 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

Vice-Admiral Tyrwhitt, in the light cruiser Cura^oa, with 
two destroyers, broke away from the Harwich Force on 
the return journey to attend a conference at Rosyth. 
When the Hght cruiser was about fifty miles off Newcastle a 
flying-boat was sighted on the water, and one of the des- 
troyers, sent to investigate, found on board two American 
Ensigns who had left their base at Killingholme to make a 
patrol, five days before. They had been forced down by 
engine failure five miles from the coast and had drifted sea- 
wards day and night : the flying-boat was towed into the 
Tyne by the destroyer. 

The British offensive waged against the Zeppelins had 
made airship reconnaissance of the mine-field area hazard- 
ous, and throughout 191 8, therefore, the importance of 
the German seaplane service increased. From the stations 
at List, Borkum, Heligoland, and Nordeney, seaplanes 
helped to guard the mine-sweeping flotillas from surprise 
attacks by enemy craft, and to guide the U-boats through 
the cleared paths in the mine-fields, and they hampered so 
far as they could the British mine-laying and reconnais- 
sance expeditions. The stations were under the com- 
mander of the German Second Seaplane Division, v\^ho 
had his head-quarters at Wilhelmshaven. Although the 
German authorities had to practice a strict economy in 
the allotment of aircraft, they did not hesitate to expand 
the North Sea stations in 191 8, and it became necessary 
to re-apportion the work of Borkum and Nordeney: the 
former station was made mainly responsible for fighting, 
and the latter for reconnaissance. They had the use of 
the carriers Answald, Santa Elena, and Stuttgart, and it 
was usual to send one or other of the carriers with the 
sweeping flotillas in order to give the seaplanes a wider 
radius of action than they had when operating from their 
base direct. 'Except in urgent and special instances', says 
a German authority, 'mine-sweeping was only carried out 
'after preliminary air reconnaissance and with the pro- 
'tection afforded by aircraft patrols.'^ 

^ Kapitanleutnant Moll in Die deutschen Luftstreitkrdjte im Weltkriege, 
P- 549- 


There is evidence that in 191 8 the effective strength at 
Borkum averaged about 20 seaplanes, at Nordeney 48, 
HeHgoland 24, and at List 32 (as compared v^ith an average 
of about 12 for each station in 191 7). The best-knov^n 
types of seaplane used v^ere a Friedrichshafener, with a 200 
horse-power Benz engine, carrying a wireless-receiving as 
well as transmitting set, and equipped with two machine- 
guns; and a Brandenburger two-seater fighter monoplane 
with one fixed and one movable gun. In 191 8 there were 
also in service, for long reconnaissance, Brandenburg and 
Gotha types with twin 200 horse-power Benz engines, and 
there was a Dornier experimental type with four 250 
horse-power Maybach engines. The small fighting sea- 
planes were apt to break up on choppy water, that is to 
say, they were not particularly seaworthy, and they were 
therefore usually accompanied by a reconnaissance-type 
seaplane. Although the presence of the larger craft limited 
to some extent the activities of the fighters, which were 
compelled to throttle down in order to keep station, the 
accompanying seaplane could, when a fight took place, call 
for reinforcements by wireless, and was also at hand ready 
to pick up, when necessary, the occupants of a fighting 
seaplane forced down on the water. 

The German seaplane units were many times in action 
with aircraft from the East Coast air stations. On the 30th 
of May two flying-boats from Yarmouth were making a 
reconnaissance of the Borkum area when one of them 
(F.2a. No. 8660) was forced down with engine trouble. 
The pilot flashed a message by Aldis lamp to say that the 
trouble was repairable, and the second flying-boat there- 
upon circled in the neighbourhood. After fifty minutes 
two German fighting seaplanes appeared, and a combat 
ensued, but when a few rounds had been fired the two 
forward machine-guns in the flying-boat jambed. The 
German pilots then turned for Borkum with the evident 
intention of seeking reinforcements. They were pursued 
by the British flying-boat, but the pilot soon realized that 
he was putting too much distance between himself and his 
companion on the water, and he therefore turned back, 
but although he made a long and careful search nothing 

36o NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

could be seen of No. 8660. The pilot at last flew home, 
where he landed, after eight hours in the air, with no more 
than twenty minutes' supply of fuel. He arrived back at 
4.45 p.m. and at 6 p.m. another flying-boat, piloted by 
Captain R. Leckie, set out for Borkum to make a further 
search.^ This boat had not long left when a pigeon flew 
in with a message: 'F.2a. 8660 on water attacked by three 

What had happened can now be told. Soon after the 
two German seaplanes had originally appeared, the engine 
trouble in No. 8660 had been rectified and she had left the 
water ; she had already gone some distance on her way when 
the second flying-boat returned from pursuing the enemy 
seaplanes and began to search for her. As soon as the 
German seaplane unit at Borkum received the news of 
the presence of the British flying-boats, five seaplanes left 
to intercept them. No. 8660, meanwhile, had stayed in the 
air for three-quarters of an hour and had then been forced 
down once again with engine trouble. She was found on 
the water by the German pilots who immediately attacked. 
They were met by fire from the machine-guns of the 
flying-boat, but the Germans were attacking a sitting bird, 
and after they had poured many bursts of fire into the 
flying-boat they noticed that three members of the crew had 
jumped overboard and were swimming. The German 
pilots thereupon ceased to attack, and they alighted on 
the water and picked up two of the swimmers : the third, 
possibly wounded, had been drowned. One German sea- 
plane taxied alongside the flying-boat, and the German 
observer went on board and found a mechanic, who had 
been wounded in the head by splinters, and the British 
pilot dead in his seat. As it was impossible to tow the 
flying-boat home, the German pilot fired a few shots into 
the petrol tank and set it on fire: the flying-boat sank 
within ten minutes. The seaplanes returned to Borkum 
with their three prisoners. ^ 

^ This flying-boat returned at ii p.m., having made a night flight, the 
first of its kind, across the North Sea. The search had been fruitless. 

^ The prisoners were: Ensign J. J. Roe, U.S.N.F.C.; Corporal F. 
Grant; and Private J. N. Money. The dead pilot was Captain C. L. 


On the 1st of June one of the periodical sweeps by the 
Harwich Force, supported by units of the Grand Fleet, 
made with the object of rounding up the German mine- 
sweepers and their covering ships, failed, mainly because 
of a warning given by patrolling hostile seaplanes, which 
also aimed a few bombs at the ships. Sopwith 'Camels' 
were flown off the Australian light cruisers Sydney and 
Melbourne, and Lieutenant A. C. Sharwood from the Sydney 
caught up with one of the seaplanes and forced it down on 
the water, but gun trouble prevented him from following 
up his attack. 

On the 4th of June five flying-boats from Felixstowe and 
Yarmouth, led by Captain R. Leckie, set out for the Haaks 
Light Vessel with one object, to fight enemy seaplanes.^ 
The German pilots accepted the challenge and one of the 
biggest seaplane fights of the war took place off Terschel- 
ling in the afternoon. Before the action began a flying-boat 
(No. 4533) had alighted on the water, and a lamp signal 
had been made to inform the British leader in the air that 
the trouble was a broken petrol feed-pipe. As it was im- 
possible that the flying-boat could get off the somewhat 
disturbed sea with only one engine working. Captain 
Leckie sent a message telling the pilot to taxi at full speed 
into Dutch waters, and to burn his craft before he himself 
was interned. Soon afterwards five German fighting sea- 
planes appeared, but they turned away when the flying- 
boats tried to engage them, and one left formation and 
flew to Borkum to call up reinforcements. For about 
half an hour the four British pilots circled over the 
crippled No. 4533 as she made her slow approach towards 
Dutch waters. When the expected German reinforce- 
ments arrived, numbering ten seaplanes. Captain Leckie 
turned to meet them head on, but only two of his flying- 
Young, D.S.C., R.A.F., and the drowned mechanic Private W. F. Chase. 
The story of this episode (as of others in which Yarmouth aircraft were 
involved) is told in some detail in The Story of a North Sea Air Station 
(C. F. Snowden Gamble), pp. 388-91. 

^ The flying-boats, and their first pilots were: Nos. 4295 (Captain R. 
Leckie) and 4289 (Captain J. Hodson) from Yarmouth, and Nos. 4302 
(Captain A. T. Barker), 4533 (Captain R. F. L. Dickey), and 8689 (Ensign 
J. A. Eaton, U.S.N.F.C.) from Felixstowe. 

362 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 191 8 [ch. x 

boats followed him, for one had gone away in pursuit of 
one of the German seaplanes which had first appeared on 
the scene: this flying-boat, with Ensign Eaton, U.S.N., 
at the controls, was eventually forced down in Dutch 
waters where the crew were taken off by trawler hands and 
interned in Holland. The three flying-boats which waged 
the main fight flew through and scattered the German 
formation. The action began at 4.35 p.m. and the account 
of what happened is told in the words of the leader as 
follows : 'The enemy consisted of three very large two- 
'seater machines about the size of our 310 Short, but with 
'wings of equal span, and carried synchronized guns. Four 
'were of the usual two-seater type, the remaining three 
'being scouts. In the middle of the action Captain Hodson, 
'Corporal Beaumont, and Air Mechanic Taverner reported 
'that a machine attacking them from under their tail was 
'shot down. This machine was seen to side-slip and spin 
'into the sea, and there is little doubt was destroyed. It 
'was observed from No. 4295 [the leader's flying-boat] 
'that a hostile machine broke off the fight and was com- 
'pelled to land in the sea about 15 miles north of Ameland. 
'This machine is believed to have been one of the large 
'type already mentioned. His landing was observed by 
'Major T. Haggerston, Captain Leckie, and Air Mechanic 
'Chapman. He made a bad landing, bouncing very heavily, 
'but the extent of his injuries cannot be stated. It is 
'believed that the remainder of the squadron must have 
'received considerable punishment as the encounter was 
'fought at very close quarters, the enemy taking first oppor- 
'tunity of steering east, and was last seen steering in this 
'direction. At 5.15 p.m., knowing that the Felixstowe 
'machines had only sufirtcient petrol left to bring them 
'back to base, and as 4533 [the flying-boat with engine 
'trouble making for Dutch waters] was then two to three 
'miles from land, I decided to return to base. At this time 
'the only machine with me was No. 4289, No. 4302 having 
'been forced to land in Dutch waters between Terschel- 
'ling and Vlieland. Repairs were effected promptly, and 
'although wing tip float was crashed on landing, machine 
'succeeded in getting off again, joining me at the Haaks. 


^At 5.50 p.m. No. 4289 flashed a message stating that she 
'saw a machine on the water behind, so immediately altered 
'course east, and soon after picked up No. 4302 believing 
'this to be the machine referred to hy No. 4289. Again 
'proceeded to base. On landing at base. Captain Hodson 
'reported that the machine he saw was on the sea with a 
'Dutch trawler standing hy. It would appear to be evident 
'that the machine he saw was Felixstowe boat No. 8689 
'which must have developed engine trouble and landed 
'among the Dutch fishing fleet at Haaks. ... It is again 
'pointed out that these operations were robbed of com- 
'plete success entirely through faulty petrol pipes. ... It 
'it obvious that our greatest foe are not the enemy, but 
'our own petrol pipes. . . .' 

Of the three flying-boats which returned to their base 
(at 7.10 p.m.) one brought home a dead oflicer. Lieutenant 
U. F. A. Galvayne, second pilot, who had been shot through 
the head. It is impossible to say what the German losses 
were, although there is evidence that some enemy sea- 
planes never returned to their base. All that is known for 
certain is that the wreckage of a hostile seaplane, carrying 
a pilot with a bullet through the heart, was washed ashore 
on one of the Dutch islands. 

At II p.m. on the 17th of June the Furious, screened 
by destroyers, left Rosyth with the First Light Cruiser 
Squadron for a reconnaissance operation in the northern 
waters of the Heligoland Bight. At 6.45 next morning, off 
Lyngvig, the carrier was making ready to send off a recon- 
naissance aeroplane^ when two German seaplanes appeared. 
Anti-aircraft gunfire was opened upon them, but they flew 
at 1,500 feet above the ships and seemed to take photo- 
graphs: two or three bombs from the German seaplanes fell 
in the sea. Meanwhile, two Sopwith 'Camels' had been 
flown off the carrier, but when the pilots came within 
striking distance of the German seaplanes, the Sopwith 
'Camels' developed machine-gun trouble, and the pilots 
had to break away and alight on the water from which, 
with their aeroplanes, they were picked up by destroyers. 

* The Furious at this time carried Sopwith two-seaters (ij Strutters) 
for reconnaissance, and Sopwith 'Camels' for fighting. 

364 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 191 8 [ch. x 

The light cruiser Galatea, which was sweeping to the south, 
also had an adventure with German seaplanes, which aimed 
bombs at her, but failed to obtain a hit. A Sopwith 'Camel' 
from the light cruiser set out in pursuit of the enemy, and 
its pilot eventually came upon a hostile seaplane in the act 
of alighting on the Ringkjobbing Fjord. He dived and 
opened fire at short range, but after a few rounds the 
Vickers gun jambed: nor did a tray of ammunition fired 
from the Lewis gun have any apparent effect. A rain- 
storm swept across the scene and the disappointed British 
pilot turned back to find the Galatea, but he searched 
in vain, and he was at last forced to land on the shore at 
Fjaltring in Denmark, where he was interned. The Galatea, 
meanwhile, after unsuccessful search for her missing sea- 
plane, had rejoined the Furious. At 12.30 p.m. two more 
German seaplanes appeared over the ships and they aimed 
four bombs at the Furious, which had to make quick use 
of her helm to avoid them. Two Sopwith 'Camels' flew 
off the deck of the carrier and one of them, piloted by 
Lieutenant G. Heath, forced a German seaplane down on 
the water, where it was found and sunk by the destroyer 
Valentine, which took the occupants, pilot and observer, 
prisoners : there was no further incident before the squadron 
turned for home. 

The encounters with German seaplanes during the 
periodical expeditions to the Bight were episodes of a 
kind to be expected. There was not the same likelihood 
that Zeppelins would be encountered, but the sweeping 
squadrons always hoped that this might happen. On the 
20th of May, excitement had been aroused in the First 
Light Cruiser Squadron when an airship had been seen in 
the far distance, and two fighting aeroplanes had been 
flown off the light cruisers Phaeton and Royalist, but the 
airship had quickly been lost to sight. As there seemed 
little chance of finding the Zeppelins in the air, the offen- 
sive temper of the navy turned to projects for destroying 
them in their sheds. Two special Flights equipped with 
Sopwith 'Camel' aeroplanes were formed, and the pilots 
were given careful training for the operation. Towards 
the end of June the Flights were embarked in the Furious 


and, in company with the First Light Cruiser Squadron, 
the carrier left Rosyth on the 27th, but two days later, 
when the ships were in readiness off the Danish coast, the 
weather was judged to be unfavourable and the attack 
was abandoned. . 

The force left Rosyth in a second attempt on the 17th 
of July, but when the ships were off the Lyngvig Light at 
3.30 a.m. on the i8th, a thunderstorm broke and it was 
decided to postpone the attack for twenty-four hours. 
The Furious and the First Light Cruiser Squadron there- 
upon fell back upon the supporting force, a Division of the 
First Battle Squadron and the Seventh Light Cruiser 
Squadron. At dawn on the 19th, the carrier and her 
escorts were once more in position eighty miles north-west 
of the German airship base at Tondern, and soon after 
3 a.m. the two Flights of Sopwith 'Camels', totalling seven 
aeroplanes, each aeroplane carrying two 50-lb. bombs, were 
in the air.^ The first three pilots who attacked appeared to 
make hits on the northernmost of the two large double 
sheds at Tondern. One of the pilots, who first attacked by 
mistake a shed used, so far as is known, as an ammunition 
store, reported as follows : 'This was a low shed, very solidly 
'built and looked semi-underground. It was about the 
'same size as the large Zeppelin shed at East Fortune. No 
'chimneys or outbuildings could be observed round it, so 
'I decided to drop one bomb on it, which I did from a 
'height of 700 feet, hitting it in the middle. I observed no 
'signs of fire as a result of this hit, but many clouds of 
'smoke. Immediately after this I saw Captain Jackson at 
'about 3,000 feet above me and a good distance to the east 
'of the town coming down in a dive, with Lieutenant 
'Williams about half a mile astern of him. I climbed a 
'little and joined in with them and then observed two very 
'large sheds, larger by quite a considerable amount to the 
'main shed at East Fortune Air Station, and also a smaller 
'one. These were at least 5 miles to the north of the town 
'and were standing up quite apart from anything else on 
'flat ground. . . . There was absolutely no sign of life until 

I Pilots, Captains W. D. Jackson, W. F. Dickson, B. A. Smart, and T. 
K. Thyne, and Lieutenants N. E. Williams, S. Dawson, and W. A. Yeulett. 

366 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

'Jackson began diving on the shed when a battery on the 
'Tondern-Hoyer road opened fire: besides this no other 
'battery opened fire during our bombing. Captain Jackson 
'dived right on to the northernmost shed and dropped two 
'bombs, one a direct hit in the middle and the other shghtly 
'to the side of the shed. I then dropped my one remaining 
'bomb, and Wilhams two more. Hits were observed. The 
'shed then burst into flames and an enormous conflagration 
'took place rising to at least 1,000 feet, the whole of the 
'shed being completely engulfed. . . .' The writer of this 
report returned safely to the ships, but his two companions 
lost their way and eventually landed in Denmark. 

The second 'Camel' Flight, led by Captain B. A. Smart, 
was reduced from four to three before the objective was 
reached, through one of the pilots being forced down on 
the water with engine trouble.^ The remainder bombed 
their objective, but Captain Smart alone got safely back. 
One of the other two was compelled to land in Denmark 
and the second. Lieutenant W. A. Yeulett, was drowned. 
The attack made by these three pilots, who came upon the 
scene after the first shed had been destroyed, is described 
in Captain Smart's report. 'I discovered the sheds', he 
says, 'two large ones and one smaller, one of the larger 
'having the roof partially destroyed and emitting large 
'volumes of dense black smoke. When in position I gave 
'the signal and dived on remaining large shed, releasing my 
'bombs at 800 to 1,000 feet. The first fell short, but the 
'second hit the centre of the shed, sending up a quantity 
'of smoke or dust. Whether this burst into flames later I 
'am unable to state, as the whole surroundings were thick 
'with mechanics or soldiers armed with rifles and machine- 
'guns, which gave so disconcerting a fire that I dived with 
'full engine to 50 feet and skimmed over the ground in a 
'zig-zag course to avoid it, and by the time I had got 
'clear w^as unable to see the sheds on account of thick 
'screen of smoke from first shed. The clouds wxre now very 
'low and a general haze made visibility bad. I searched in 
'all directions for the remainder of my Flight, but seeing 
'nothing, I made straight for the pre-arranged rendezvous 
^ This officer was picked up by a British destroyer. 

i9i8] L.54 AND L.60 DESTROYED 367 

'at Brede. Here I slowed down to wait for the others, but 
'after doing a circuit at slow speed and still nothing in 
'sight, decided it was inadvisable to wait longer as I had 
'already been in the air nearl)^ two hours and wind had in- 
'creased: also the clouds were so low and thick as to give 
'all of us, though separated, ample protection from superior 
'forces of hostile craft.' Captain Smart eventually alighted 
alongside the destroyer Violent^ but the last part of his 
journey had provided some anxious moments: for twenty 
minutes his engine had given only enough power for the 
maintenance of flying speed a few feet above the water. 
The operation, although at a cost, had had the success it 
deserved. In the shed which had been destroyed by fire 
lay the ashes of the Zeppelins L.54 ^^^ L.60. The second 
shed was seriously damaged, but no other airship was lost. 

Coastal Motor-boat Operations 

The operations which next call for notice were of an 
unusual kind. Air reconnaissances and other sources of in- 
formation had revealed that the German mine-sweeping 
vessels were usually accompanied by light forces and that, 
in support, capital ships were sometimes patrolling, or 
even anchored, in the inner Bight. A plan was drawn up 
to carry coastal motor-boats, of shallow draft and equipped 
to fire torpedoes, to the margin^of the mined area, and there 
launch them for a dash across the mine-fields to the inner 
part of the Bight. With reasonable luck and the advantage 
of surprise, it might be possible to inflict important losses 
on the enemy, but whether this happened or not, the 
operations, at a modest calculation, were likely to create a 
feeling of anxiety sufficient to induce the German naval 
authorities to adopt a cautious attitude about the degree 
of support given to the mine-sweeping vessels. 

The first attempt was made on the 29th of June, when 
the Harwich Force left harbour with three light cruisers, 
each carrying two motor-boats at their davits, and with a 
destroyer (the Ulleswater) flying a kite-balloon. Three 
destroyers, with flying-boats on lighters in tow, were 
also in company. Hopes were high as the ships moved 
across the North Sea upon their novel undertaking, but 

368 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

disappointment lay in wait. At i a.m.^ on the 30th the force 
was in position about sixty miles north-north-west of Ter- 
schelling, and the motor-boats, each carrying one torpedo, 
set out, at thirty knots, on their adventure. They had 
orders to work in pairs, and one pair which made a sweep 
in the north-easterly direction found, at 3 a.m., ten mine- 
sweeping trawlers. Two of them were picked out for 
attack: one of the torpedoes failed to run, but the other 
scored a hit. The remaining motor-boats, meanwhile, had 
made a sweep in a south-easterly direction and had been 
attracted by smoke on the horizon towards which they had 
steered. At 3.25 a.m., when daylight broke with good 
visibility, the boats gave up pursuit of the smoke (no 
vessels were in sight) and returned to the supporting force, 
stopping on the way to pick up a Norwegian sailor found 
lying on a raft. All the coastal motor-boats were back at 
4.40 a.m. and they were safely hoisted on board the light 

The help given by the flying-boats had been of no 
account. The pilots of .the Large Americas had started off 
at 3 a.m. with orders to cut across the course taken by the 
motor-boats. They were not to journey more than sixty 
miles, were to return in any event if they saw the coastal 
motor-boats on the way home, were to send back news, 
by wireless, to the supporting force if enemy vessels were 
sighted or if anything appeared amiss with the motor- 
boats, and, finally, were to help guide the boats back to the 
cruisers. The flying-boats, however, themselves needed 
help. Because of a long swell and lack of wind, the pilots 
had trouble when they tried to get off the water, and one 
flying-boat had been wrecked and lost and another re- 
shipped in a damaged condition. The third flew off late and 
made a brief reconnaissance, but it was wrecked through 
engine failure on its return. The kite-balloon flown in the 
Ulleszuater proved of some use as a recognition mark by 
which the motor-boat crews were able to check their 
course back to the ships, but nothing of value was reported 
from the balloon basket. 

To distract the attention of German seaplanes from the 
I G.M.T. Local time 2 a.m. 


area of the motor-boat operations, flying-boats from Yar- 
mouth and Fehxstowe patrolled off the Dutch islands. 
They found five fighting seaplanes, low down, near Vlie- 
land, but the German pilots scattered as soon as they were 
attacked : there is some evidence that one enemy seaplane 
was damaged. 

There was still another disappointing feature about the 
operation. From the motor-boats, two submarines had 
been sighted on the surface, but they had gone under 
before torpedoes could be fired at them, and because 
the coastal motor-boats did not carry depth-charges it 
had been impossible to take advantage of an exceptional 
opportunity. The Admiralty proposed that when next 
the motor-boats went out, half should carry depth-charges 
and half torpedoes, but Admiral Beatty said that the 
operations had been designed against surface craft, and 
that if attacks upon submerged U-boats were to be added, 
the original idea would be confused. After some discus- 
sion it was agreed that on the next expedition two of 
the six boats should be equipped with depth-charges. 

This operation began just before midnight on the 7th 
of July, but on the following morning the boats cruised 
for some time without finding enemy vessels; it was 
impossible for the flying-boats to leave the water on 
account of a heavy swell. Another attempt was made on 
the night of the lyth/iSth of July, but no flying-boats 
accompanied the force because it did not appear that the 
weather would be favourable. The destroyer Ulleswater, 
however, carried her kite-balloon aloft, but in the evening 
of the 17th a thunderstorm broke over the ships on passage 
across the North Sea and at 10.30 p.m. the balloon was 
struck by lightning and destroyed in flames, 'lighting up 
the whole blessed ocean for miles'.^ At 11.40 p.m. the 
force had reached its destination and four motor-boats 

' From a personal account by Commander E. K. Boddam-Whetham, 
R.N., who was in the Ulleswater at the time. 'As there were no observers 
'in the basket, it being still dark', he goes on, 'I saw no point in making 
'any obvious signals to Commodore (T), so I reeled in a bare end of wire and 
'did nothing. About lo a.m. I received a signal: "Flag — Ulleswater — Have 
'you noticed you have lost your balloon ?" ' 

2504.6 B b 

370 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

were launched. While they were still out the storm 
broke again, and their crews had the greatest difficulty, 
low down on the water as they were, in finding their parent 
ships. By 7 a.m. three of the motor-boats had been picked 
up, but search for the fourth continued all day in vain, 
and at 6 p.m. the force gave up the search and returned 
to its base.^ 

On the 1st of August a similar operation took place, 
and once again a long swell made it impossible for the 
flying-boats to leave the water. At the moment the 
motor-boats were being launched, enemy wireless signals 
received in the ships revealed that the force was under 
observation, and shortly afterwards a Zeppelin was sighted 
some distance away through a gap in the clouds. The air- 
ship commander, making skilful use of the clouds to con- 
ceal his approach, bore down upon the light cruisers, and 
he dropped four heavy-weight bombs which fell close to 
the ships, but inflicted no damage. The clouds began to 
break up, and when anti-aircraft fire was opened on the 
Zeppelin she retreated. German seaplanes appeared soon 
after the airship had gone, but they were content to watch 
from a distance. By 9.30 a.m. the motor-boats, helped 
in their navigation by the kite-balloon flown in the 
Ulleswater^ a valuable guiding mark, had been picked up, 
and the force, once more disappointed, made its way home. 

There was one hopeful feature to offset the disappoint- 
ment. It seemed that the Zeppelin commanders were 
losing their sense of caution, and that it would be worth 
while, next time, to take a fighting aeroplane in company. 
This recrudescence, if such it was, of airship boldness 
in the Bight coincided with the conclusion of experi- 
ments which promised to make it easier for fighting aero- 
planes to be carried. Earlier in the year, Rear-Admiral 
Tyrwhitt had proposed that flying-boat lighters should be 
fitted with a flying-off platform, and Colonel C. R. Samson 
had worked on the suggestion. His idea was that a lighter, 
carrying an aeroplane securely fixed on board in flying 
position, might be towed by a destroyer steaming at thirty 

^ The crew of the missing motor-boat, after sinking their craft, had been 
taken on board a Dutch fishing vessel and given passage to Holland. 


knots or more into the wind. The pilot would then run 
his engine to the full and, when he judged the moment 
was favourable, would free the aeroplane by means of a 
specially designed quick-release clip, and fly off. Colonel 
Samson had himself made the first trial on the 30th of May, 
when he had narrowly missed death. The experimental 
flying-off arrangement in the lighter consisted of two 
wooden troughs in which skids attached to the ordinary 
chassis of the aeroplane were to run. When Colonel 
Samson attempted to get into the air one of the skids on 
the Sopwith 'Camel' overran its trough, with the result 
that the aeroplane 'cart-wheeled' over the bow of the 
lighter. The towed lighter passed over the wrecked aero- 
plane which, with its pilot, was pushed under the water. 
After a grim struggle Colonel Samson succeeded in forcing 
his way out of his cockpit, and he regained the surface 
of the water and was eventually picked up by a whaler 
from the towing destroyer. The failure taught some 
lessons. The lighter took a very steep angle down by 
the stern when towed at full speed and it was obviously 
necessary that the flying-deck should dip forward to a 
corresponding extent when the lighter was at rest. The 
troughs had proved unsuitable, and a special flying-off 
deck was therefore designed, and skids were abandoned 
in favour of the ordinary aeroplane wheels. On the 31st 
of July 191 8, when the modifications had been completed. 
Lieutenant S. D. Culley made a successful flight from 
the lighter's deck. 

On the evening of the loth of August the Harwich 
Force, with a fighting aeroplane in company, set out once 
again for the Heligoland Bight. Three of the light cruisers 
with the force each carried two coastal motor-boats, and 
one towed a kite-balloon. Three of the destroyers towed 
lighters carrying flying-boats, and one (the Redoubt) 
towed the lighter with the 'Camel' aeroplane on board. 
At 6.10 a.m. on the nth the force was in position off 
Terschelling and the motor-boats were lowered for their 
cruise in search of enemy vessels. The weather conditions, 
from most points of view, were perfect. The visibility was 
exceptionally good, but, unhappily, a ground swell and 

372 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

an entire absence of wind made it impossible to get the 
flying-boats into the air. 'This was a calamity', Rear- 
Admiral Tyrwhitt subsequently reported, 'that had never 
'crossed my mind as I considered the conditions ideal. 
'Knowing, however, that the Yarmouth seaplanes were 
'due, I had no misgivings regarding the coastal motor- 
'boats, which were already beyond recall.' 

A few minutes after the motor-boats had started, four 
German seaplanes came into view, and for some time 
they kept watch on the ships. At 7.10 a.m. the three 
Yarmouth flying-boats arrived as arranged. The Rear- 
Admiral ordered that a signal should be made giving the 
position of the German seaplanes and, on receipt of the 
message, the flying-boats went off in search. The German 
seaplanes were visible from the ships and when, there- 
fore, the Yarmouth flying-boats set a course in the air 
which took no apparent notice of the enemy seaplanes, 
it was assumed in the ships that the flying-boats had not 
received the message. The trouble was that although 
visibility on the surface of the sea was uniformly good, it 
was patchy in the air, because of an unusual diffusion of 
light, especially towards the sun, and the enemy seaplanes 
could not be seen from the flying-boats. After an hour 
the pilots returned to ask for further instructions and they 
were then told to seek out the motor-boats which, it was 
calculated, would be on their way back. A careful search 
was made, but no trace of the surface craft was found. 
While the search was still in progress a Zeppelin was 
sighted, and as it was undesirable that the flying-boats 
should break wireless silence, they flew back to the fleet 
to report by visual signal the presence of the airship. 

Rear-Admiral Tyrwhitt had already been advised by 
wireless from the Admiralty in London that a Zeppelin 
was in his neighbourhood, and the airship had afterwards 
been sighted. The Harwich Force had turned at 8.30 a.m., 
to entice her seawards and, at the same time, smoke screens 
had been laid. The manoeuvre seemed to excite the 
curiosity of the crew of the Zeppelin, which followed 
the ships. At 8.41 a.m. Lieutenant S. D. CuUey flew off 
the lighter in the Sopwith 'Camel' and he climbed rapidly: 


he was apparently not seen from the gondolas of the Zep- 
pelin, which made a leisurely turn and proceeded towards 
Germany. At 19,000 feet he came up with her north 
of the island of Ameland, and he attacked head on from 
below: his orders had been to attack from above, but 
he had been unable to force his Sopwith 'Camel' higher. 
The watching eyes in the ships saw, at 9.41 a.m., a sudden 
burst of flame in the sky, followed by smoke and falling 
debris, and they knew that Lieutenant Culley's mission 
had succeeded. A smoke screen was made to guide the 
Sopwith 'Camel' pilot back to the ships, but it was not 
until two hours later that he was picked up with his aero- 
plane.^ Rear- Admiral Tyrwhitt signalled the ships as 
follows : 'Flag-general — ^Your attention is called to Hymn 
'No. 224, Verse 7', and those who took action on this 
cryptic message read : 

Oh happy band of pilgrims, 
Look upward to the skies, 
Where such a Hght affliction 
Shall win so great a prize. 

The prize was the Zeppelin Z.55 (Kapitanleutnant 
Prolss). 'I consider', reported Rear- Admiral Tyrwhitt, 
'that Lieutenant Culley's success is second to none of the 
'many glorious deeds of the Royal Air Force, and an 
'example of pluck, endurance, and great personal courage.' 
It is of interest that the Zeppelin made her last signal 
at 9.40 a.m., immediately before Lieutenant Culley at- 
tacked, and that her position at that moment, as it was 
calculated in Whitehall and communicated by wireless to 
Rear- Admiral Tyrwhitt, coincided with the actual position 
in which she was destroyed. 

Before Lieutenant Culley was picked up the coastal 
motor-boats had become overdue, and Rear-Admiral 

^ It is possible that the peculiarities of the visibility led to the Zeppelin's 
destruction. Had her crew seen the Sopwith 'Camel' leave the lighter, the 
airship could almost certainly have got away in time. Lieutenant Culley 
himself nearly came to grief because of the variable visibility. He spent 
two hours searching for the ships and only saw them when he was less than 
two miles away, at the moment when his petrol was finishing. The debris 
falling from the Zeppelin had been visible to the crews in the ships fifty 
miles away. 

374 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

Tyrwhitt had ordered destroyers and light cruisers to 
sweep in search of them. He also asked the Admiralty by 
wireless to send additional flying-boats from Yarmouth. 
In reply, the same boats which had been out in the morn- 
ing were once more dispatched to Terschelling, and when 
they reached the Harwich Force, at 4.15 p.m., the pilots 
were ordered to make a search for the missing motor-boats 
to the eastwards. They saw nothing, and when they 
returned to the ships to report Rear-Admiral Tyrwhitt 
ordered them to return to their base. The Harwich Force, 
with great reluctance, also gave up the search and made its 
way home under abortive attack, until dark, from German 

Enemy seaplanes had brought disaster to the motor- 
boats. After being launched from the light cruisers they 
had moved towards the Dutch coast and had then followed 
the coast-line at full speed about a mile outside territorial 
waters. Not long after the boats turned, six seaplanes 
appeared, but it was assumed that they were British 
until they came near enough for the black crosses on 
their wings to be discernible. The coastal boats im- 
mediately closed in order to concentrate fire from their 
Lewis guns, and they were soon fighting a machine-gun 
duel with the diving seaplanes, now increased to eight. 
Although the German pilots also aimed bombs at their 
swift-moving targets, the motor-boats held their own for 
half an hour, until the leader turned about to rejoin the 
Harwich Force. The German pilots from this time on- 
wards had the sun at their backs, whereas the visibility 
eastwards from the motor-boats was blurred: further- 
more, four fast fighting seaplanes, each equipped with two 
forward machine-guns, arrived to reinforce the attackers. 
The action developed into one of target practice for the 
enemy pilots. Keeping the sun directly behind them 
they roared down upon the coastal motor-boats, defined 
in clear detail, and the fire from the seaplanes, opened 
with fair accuracy at long range, was maintained without 
break and with increasing sureness of aim as they neared 
the luckless crews. After the fight had lasted fifteen 
minutes the British machine-guns were silent: some of 


the last rounds fired from the motor-boats struck one of 
the seaplanes at point-blank range and it crashed into the 
sea. The crews in the motor-boats had fought the action 
to the end, to the last bullet for each serviceable machine- 
gun, and almost to the last of the fuel supply for each 

The encounter took place three or four miles from the 
Dutch coast. One boat, with spluttering engines, reached 
the shore, another caught fire, but was navigated within 
half a mile of the shore before she was blown up, two more, 
with engines and guns useless, were sunk by their crews 
who took to the water for three hours until picked up by 
a Dutch torpedo-boat, while the remaining two, badly 
damaged, drifted into territorial waters from which they 
were salved by the Dutch. All the crews survived the 
adventure, although four of the officers and two of the 
men had been wounded. Two of the more severely wounded 
had been put overboard from the burning boat which had 
had to be blown up. Their peril was seen by three Dutch 
sailors stationed at Terschelling who made the half-mile 
swim from the shore and brought them back, an act of 
gallantry which came as a fitting end to one of the fastest 
and strangest actions ever fought at sea.^ 

It was not the naval way to let this disaster to the motor- 
boats go unavenged. Plans were quickly prepared, to be 
put into operation at a suitable opportunity, to strike an 
effective blow at the German seaplane service at Borkum 
and Nordeney. The attempt was made on the 24th of 
October by the Harwich Force in combination with flying- 
boats and Sopwith 'Camel' aeroplanes. The plan was for 
one of the light cruisers to send out fictitious signals, at 
full wireless strength, in the expectation that they would 
attract German aircraft to investigate. To deal with what- 
ever enemy seaplanes might appear, four flying-boats and 
four Sopwith 'Camels' were in tow on lighters, while two 

^ The Dutch sailors, in recognition of their service, were awarded the 
Board of Trade Silver Medal for gallantry in saving life at sea. An 
account of the action, by an officer in one of the motor-boats, is given in 
'The Sea and the Air', by Cedric Outhwaite, in Blackwood's Magazine 
for November 1927. 

376 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

Flights, each of five flying-boats, flew across the North 
Sea from the air stations at FeHxstowe and Harwich. 
Unhappily, the plan, long and carefully thought out, mis- 
carried. The Harwich Force arrived at the rendezvous 
off Terschelling at 6.30 a.m., and half an hour later an 
attempt was made to launch the flying-boats. One of them, 
however, revealed engine defects, and it proved impossible 
to fly the others off the heavy seas : they were eventually 
re-shipped. At 8.30 a.m. a formation of five German 
seaplanes appeared, but when fire was opened on them 
from the ships they withdrew. Meanwhile, it had been 
discovered that three of the Sopwith 'Camels', because 
of defective tail-guides due to pounding by the seas on 
the outward passage, could not be made to fly. When the 
five flying-boats from Yarmouth arrived as arranged, they 
were informed that the enemy seaplanes had retreated 
eastwards, and were given orders to make a reconnaissance 
in that direction. The flying-boats from Felixstowe were 
ordered, by wireless, to come up in support of the Yar- 
mouth Flight : two of them, however, had to turn back 
because of engine trouble, and the remaining three ran 
into fog and were eventually sent back to their base. The 
Yarmouth flying-boats, after patrolling for their allotted 
time without incident, received orders from Rear-Admiral 
Tyrwhitt to return to their station direct. They had not 
long started for home when sixteen German seaplanes 
approached the ships. Some of them passed over the 
Harwich Force in pursuit of the flying-boats while others 
attacked the ships with bombs. The seaplanes which had 
vainly pursued the Yarmouth flying-boats passed on their 
return journey near the fleet and disappeared towards 
their base. 

Air warfare in the southern part of the North Sea was 
of a more continuous kind and did not involve squadrons 
of supporting ships. It was waged, on the German side, 
with a fine offensive spirit by the unit known as Flanders /, 
which operated from the naval air base at Zeebrugge. 
This unit was equipped with high-speed float-type sea- 
planes which could out-manoeuvre and out-fight the British 


flying-boats, and were sufficiently seaworthy to enable 
their pilots to come down on the water, in fair weather 
conditions, to lie in wait for the British patrols. 

On the 25 th of April 191 8 two flying-boats from Felix- 
stowe were on patrol together when they were attacked by 
seven enemy fighting seaplanes from Zeebrugge. After the 
fight had lasted ten minutes, one of the flying-boats burst 
into flames, but the other, by skimming the water, suc- 
ceeded in making its escape. On the 6th of June another 
flying-boat from Felixstowe was shot down by five German 
pilots, but the British crew, including the commanding 
oflicer of the Felixstowe air station, Lieutenant-Colonel 
E. D. M. Robertson, were taken from the wreckage, after 
clinging to it for eight hours, by Large America flying- 
boats sent out specially to find them. The Zeebrugge 
pilots were not only aggressive fighters, but they usually 
revealed themselves also as good sportsmen. They might, 
on this occasion, have continued their attacks on the 
flying-boat after it was wrecked, but, instead, one of the 
German pilots had landed alongside the British craft and 
had pointed in the direction of the shore, presumably to 
encourage a hope that help would be forthcoming. 

Next day, the 7th of June, when a B.E.2C aeroplane 
from the Yarmouth air station was on anti-submarine 
patrol, five Zeebrugge seaplanes were sighted at 5.35 a.m. 
on the water south-east of Cross Sands. The German 
pilots at once flew off to attack the B.E.2C which carried 
bombs, but no machine-guns, and therefore represented 
an easy victim. The aeroplane pilot managed to elude the 
opening attack, and when the Germans were about to 
follow up, a Short seaplane came into view and the enemy 
pilots promptly turned to engage it. Making use of their 
superior speed they cut the Short off from land, headed it 
out to sea, and then closed in to attack. A machine-gun 
duel, in which the Short seaplane was outclassed, ensued 
at a height of 30 feet or so above the water. When the 
fight was approaching a climax the pilot of the Short 
sighted two vessels about seven miles away and he made 
for them direct. They proved to be patrolling motor- 
launches, and they at once opened fire on the pursuing 

378 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

German seaplanes with 3-pounder Hotchkiss guns and 
with their Lewis guns. The Short ahghted near the 
motor-launches, but the German pilots took up a circular 
formation and continued their attack, pouring almost 
continuous fire into the seaplane on the water from a 
height of a few feet. The observer in the Short, twice 
wounded, replied with his Lewis gun, but 'after the en- 
'gagement had lasted approximately ten minutes', says 
the report of the pilot, who also received a wound, the 
'machine showed signs of sinking and we were so hope- 
'lessly outmatched that I gave the observer orders to cease 
'fire and get into the water under the machine. We both 
'climbed out of the machine into the water, between the 
'floats, constantly ducking to avoid the bursts of machine- 
'gun fire. After about another five minutes' continuous 
'attack, the enemy flew off in a south-west direction and 
'we were picked up by motor-launch 129. . . .' The motor- 
launches had themselves come under attack from the 
German seaplanes, and one of them had been partly dis- 
abled by bullets which penetrated the engine-room. 

In July the weather was often unfavourable for flying, 
but the German pilots lost no opportunity for activity. 
Four flying-boats from Felixstowe were on patrol near the 
North Hinder on the 4th of July when one of them, which 
had broken formation, was attacked and shot down by 
seven German seaplanes. The other flying-boats were soon 
involved and they all suffered damage, and two officers 
and two men among the crew were wounded. While the 
fight was at its fiercest an engine crank-case in one of the 
flying-boats was hit and the oil began to leak. The en- 
gineer. Second Air-Mechanic W. M. Blacklock, thereupon 
climbed out on the wing to stop the leak with his hand, 
and although fire from the German seaplanes was concen- 
trated upon him, he stuck to his task and enabled his pilot 
to fly on until he came upon a fishing smack, alongside 
which he alighted. 

On the 1 8th of July two Short seaplanes, with two Sop- 
with 'Camel' aeroplanes as escorts, were on patrol between 
the Kentish Knock and the Sunk Light Vessel when seven 
enemy seaplanes surprised them out of the sun. In the 


fight which followed one of the Sopwith 'Camel' pilots 
singled out one enemy seaplane and kept up his attack until 
it fell spinning into the sea.^ Soon after the fight had 
begun the machine-guns in the other Sopwith 'Camel' had 
jambed and they could not be cleared, but the pilot con- 
tinued to dive at the German seaplanes in order to confuse 
their aim. One of the Shorts went down and alighted on 
the water, and the other broke away and made full speed 
for its base at Westgate, but it never reached home and 
its destruction was claimed hy a German pilot when he 
returned to Zeebrugge. It seemed that one of the German 
seaplanes alighted alongside the other Short which had 
been forced down on the water, where the two craft con- 
tinued to fight, with the result that the Short was set on 
fire and sunk. The two 'Camels', much shot about and 
with their machine-guns jambed, returned safely to their 
aerodrome at Manston. Admiral F. C. D. Sturdee, Com- 
mander-in-Chief, The Nore, reporting to the Admiralty 
a few days later, said : 'This is the sixteenth occasion since 
31st May, 191 8, on which flights ofGerman machines have 
been reported in this area, and the continual visits of these 
enemy craft show the great importance they attach to 
this district: this has been anticipated (vide my former 
submissions on this subject). On the 20th of July I sent 
the air officer on my staff to the Admiralty and Air 
Ministry to explain personally the serious situation of our 
air defences in this command. I understand that this is 
now appreciated by the air authorities at the Admiralty 
and the Air Ministry, so it is hoped that immediate steps 
will be taken to place our air defences at least on an 
equality with the probable enemy forces. Recognizing the 
strategic positions of Westgate and Manston with their 
proximity to the enemy air bases, the naval Flights at 
these stations, in order to be efficient in a real war sense, 
should be superior in number, type, and speed of machines, 
and staff for maintenance. Then these attacks will be met 
properly, and our command of the air will be assured; 
until this happens the enemy will continue their attacks, 

* A semi-ofRcial list of seaplanes lost hy the Flanders I air station during 
the war does not show any destroyed in this action. 

38o NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

'in the hope of destroying our weak patrols, daily or when 
'the weather conditions allow. The present situation, with 
'the consequent weak patrols, is so obviously unwarlike 
'that it would seem only to require being mentioned to 
'ensure it being rectified.' 

The inferior equipment of the British air stations did 
not result from a lack of appreciation of their strategic 
importance. The main trouble, as has been told, was one 
of supply break-down. The complaint of the Admiral 
was similar in substance to those sent in from many 
other quarters. Because the Flanders I seaplane unit 
was equipped with aircraft often superior, and never 
inferior, in performance to those it met on the British 
side, and because the German pilots operated in forma- 
tions which, though not large, were bigger than those sent 
out from the east coast air stations, it was enabled to inflict 
damage with disproportionate loss to itself. The average 
numbers of aircraft in service with i^/^??^^rj"/ were: in 191 5, 
II; 1916, 20; 1917, 29; and 1918, 30. Apart from the 
routine patrols which gave valuable information in con- 
nexion with mine-sweeping operations and with the safe 
passage of U-boats, the records of the unit show that it shot 
down 26 Allied aircraft, destroyed six merchant vessels, 
took one into port as a prize, destroyed a British submarine 
and severely damaged another (the C.25), and destroyed 
two British non-rigid airships : the unit also made bomb- 
ing attacks on Dunkirk, Calais, and Dover. The losses of 
the unit, in flying personnel, amounted to 27 killed from all 
causes, 4 missing, 18 taken prisoners, and 12 wounded. 


The formation of the Royal Air Force led to some impor- 
tant changes in the Dover-Dunkirk command. In January 
191 8 the Air Council proposed to the Admiralty, 'that the 
'air forces in the Dunkirk area should be re-organized on 
'the following general lines : 

'(i) A Wing will be attached permanently to the Dun- 
'kirk-Dover Command for work in connection with the 
'Navy, which Wing, for operation purposes, will come under 




'the direct command of the Senior Naval Officer. Its 
'maintenance as regards personnel, machines, stores, &c. 
'would be arranged for by the Royal Flying Corps officer 
'of the area. 

'(2) Other air units, consisting of fighting, reconnais- 
'sance, and bombing squadrons will be operating in the 
'Dunkirk area under the command of the Field Marshal 
'Commanding in France, their strength and composition 
'varying from time to time according to the requirements 
'of the naval and military situation. 

'(3) The underlying principle will be that the units 
'must be as mobile as possible, to enable a rapid concentra- 
'tion to be made, either for attack or defence, and for this 
'purpose immobile units should be reduced to a minimum. 

'(4) The Air Council are aware of the importance Their 
'Lordships attach to the attack of the enemy's maritime 
'bases on the Flanders coast, and the necessity of checking 
'the activity of the enemy's aircraft operating against the 
'Fleet, and due weight will be given to these considera- 
'tions in assessing the strength of the Air Forces operating 
'in the Dunkirk area. 

'(5) For purely local operations, and those of an im- 
'mediate nature requiring the assistance of Air Force units 
'to assist the Wing, the Senior Naval Officer, Dunkirk, will 
'apply direct to the Royal Flying Corps Commander in the 
'Dunkirk area. 

'(6) For larger operations of a more important nature it 
'is proposed that the Vice-Admiral, Dover, should apply 
'direct for assistance to the Field Marshal Commanding 
'in France. 

'(7) For any major operations which Their Lordships 
'may contemplate, necessitating a considerable concentra- 
'tion of Air Force in the Dunkirk area, it is presumed that 
'the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty will com- 
'municate with the Army Council and Air Council for the 
'necessary arrangements to be made. 

'(8) The Air Council propose that the establishment of 
'the Dunkirk Wing shall be fixed as follows : 

'i Squadron of De Havilland 4 machines for recon- 
'naissance work with the Fleet. 

382 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 191 8 [ch. x 

'i Squadron of De Havilland 4 machines for anti- 
'submarine work, the three flights being disposed 
'either at Dunkirk, Dover, or Walmer, according to 
'the requirements of the Vice- Admiral, Dover. 

*3 Squadrons of fighting machines.' 

In their reply the Admiralty accepted as a general prin- 
ciple the reduction of the naval air force at Dunkirk to one 
wing, but said: 'In view of the great importance that is 
'attached to the work now carried out by the bombing and 
'fighting machines which will pass from naval control, the 
'Admiralty can only agree to the new arrangement on the 
'clear understanding that the Naval wing will receive 
'support when needed, and that offensive bombing will 
'be carried out against naval objectives when necessity may 
'arise, as indicated in paragraph 4 of your letter under 

Accordingly, in March 191 8, the Sixty-first Wing(Squad- 
rons 201, 202, 210, 213, and 2 1 7) was permanently attached 
to the Dover-Dunkirk command for work with naval 
forces, while the Sixty-fourth Wing (Squadrons 203, 204, 
208, and 209) and Sixty-fifth Wing (Squadrons 206, 207, 
211, 214, and 215) were grouped as the VII Brigade and 
placed under the orders of Sir Douglas Haig, the Field 
Marshal Commanding-in-Chief. 

The intention of the Air Council, at the time the above 
arrangements were made, was to organize a bombing force 
for large-scale attacks on German naval targets on or near 
the Belgian coast, notably the U-boat bases at Bruges and 
Zeebrugge. The force would, it was anticipated, operate 
under the orders of the Air Council as a northern bombing 
force, as a counterpart to a proposed southern bombing 
force to be constituted for attacks on German industrial 
centres. The latter force, the Independent Force, duly 
came into being, but the former was never established, at 
least as a British force. There were two main reasons for 
this, namely, the important effect of the German 191 8 
offensive which opened against the British in March, and 
British aircraft production failures.^ 

^ See Chapter II. 



When it had been arranged that General Head-quarters 
in France should take control of two of the Dunkirk Wings, 
it had not been intended that the squadrons should be 
moved away en bloc from the coastal area. Sir Douglas 
Haig had been told hj the War Office of the importance 
which the Admiralty attached to the bombing of the sub- 
marine bases in Belgium, or such similar naval targets as 
the Vice-Admiral, Dover, might indicate, and it had been 
pointed out that the Air Council fully shared the Admiralty 
views. The Army Council had been willing to agree that 
certain of the squadrons transferred to the control of Sir 
Douglas Haig should be retained in the Dunkirk area, and 
it was impressed upon the Field-Marshal that further 
squadrons would be added, as material became available, 
in accordance with the policy of the Air Ministry to build 
up a northern bombing force. 

In the storms and stresses of the March and April battles 
on the Western front the above hopes and intentions went 
by the board. All the squadrons which could be spared 
from the Dunkirk area were moved to the vital battle 
fronts. Furthermore, Vice-Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, who 
had succeeded Vice-Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon in com- 
mand of the Dover Patrol on New Year's day 1918, offered 
on the 26th of March, when the Western front situation 
was critical, to place at the disposal of Sir Douglas Haig any 
or all of the squadrons in the Wing permanently allotted 
for naval air operations. The offer was gladly accepted and 
two fighter squadrons, Nos. 201 and 210, were moved at 
once. Owing to the almost continuous fighting which took 
place on the Western front from that time onwards until 
the end of the war it was never possible for Sir Douglas 
Haig to release squadrons for large-scale operations in the 
area of the Belgian coast, much to the disappointment, 
very natural in the circumstances, of Vice-Admiral Sir 
Roger Keyes. 

It is probable that the reduction of the naval air strength 
at Dunkirk was effected without misgivings for the reason 
that there were expectations of important help from 
America. The United States naval authorities had agreed 
to form a bombing group which would have for particular 

384 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

object attacks on the German U-boat bases at Bruges, 
Zeebrugge, and Ostend. The plan made allowance for 
twelve bomber and fighter squadrons stationed at various 
places between Calais and Dunkirk. Owing to disappoint- 
ments in connexion with the output of American aircraft, 
the number of squadrons allotted to the Northern Bomb- 
ing Group (N.B.G.), as it was called, was reduced from 
twelve to eight, but production difficulties persisted and 
a part only of the reduced force, which had been placed 
under the orders of the Vice- Admiral, Dover, and drew its 
stores from the 5th Group, Royal Air Force, ^ had been 
assembled at the time of the armistice. The first bombing 
raid did not take place until the 14th of October 191 8, 
but within a fortnight the Americans had made eight day 
and night raids on various objectives in Belgium. With 
the evacuation by the Germans of the submarine bases in 
Flanders the special reason for the activities of the American 
bombers no longer existed, and the services of the force 
were offered to General Pershing who replied, however, 
that he thought the group would best be employed to help 
the British operations in the Belgian area. Accordingly the 
American bombers worked with the Royal Air Force in 
support of the final advance of the British armies. The 
American northern group dropped in all, during its brief 
period of active service, about one hundred tons of bombs 
on various enemy targets, naval and military. 

At the beginning of April 1 91 8, when the various moves in 
connexion with the Dunkirk reorganization had been com- 
pleted, there remained in the Dunkirk area, under naval 
control. No. 213 fighter Squadron, No. 2 17 anti-submarine 
Squadron, and No. 202 reconnaissance Squadron. There 
also remained in the area, under army control. No. 204 
fighter Squadron,^ No. 211 day-bomber Squadron, and 
Nos. 207, 214, and 2152 night-bomber Squadrons. 

^ The instructions of Vice-Admiral W. S. Sims stated that the U.S. 
Naval Northern Bombing Group would, for administration and internal 
organization, be considered an independent unit, but that all operations 
would be controlled by the Vice-Admiral Commanding the Dover Patrol. 

^ No. 204 Squadron was transferred to the command of Sir Roger Keyes 
on the 2 1st of April. 

3 No. 15 Squadron, afterwards No. 215, had been formed at Coudekerque 


The squadrons working directly for the navy, including 
the air units stationed at Dover, formed the 5 th Group 
under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel F. C. Halahan, 
v^ith Brigadier-General C. L. Lambe in command of the 
VII Brigade. Early in May, however, with the de facto 
reduction of the Dunkirk-Dover force, the VII Brigade 
was formally disbanded and Brigadier-General C. L. Lambe 
took command of the 5 th Group, with Lieutenant-Colonel 
Halahan at Dover as his second in command. 

The main activities of the Dunkirk air units in April and 
May 191 8 were connected with the naval operations against 
Zeebrugge and Ostend, the object of which was to block 
the entrance to the canal at Zeebrugge, and to Ostend 
harbour, in order to close the waterway communications 
with the German inland naval base at Bruges. An up-to- 
date survey of the area of operations was a necessary pre- 
liminary, and it is probably true to say that the Royal Air 
Force had contributed the most important part of its share 
in the enterprise before the event. It was necessary to 
obtain the desired information for varying conditions of 
tide, and reconnaissances, and in particular photography, 
had to be multiplied accordingly. The work was done 
by No. 202 (D.H.4) Squadron which, over a period of 
some weeks, photographed and re-photographed the whole 
specified area. Plans and models of the coast and of the naval 
objectives, based on the photographs, were constructed and, 
in addition, a replica of the Zeebrugge mole was marked 
out for training purposes on the ground at Deal. As the 
naval blocking operations were to take place at night and 
under cover of smoke-screens, an important aspect of the 
air work was a survey of the buoys marking the channels 
by which the objectives could be reached. 

The success of the exploit depended upon secrecy. The 
ships were to assemble some sixty miles from the Belgian 
ports, and because the passage to the objectives would re- 
quire about seven hours there would at the beginning of the 
voyage be some hours of daylight during which the force 
might be surprised by German aircraft or by submarines. 

on the loth of March 191 8, from personnel provided by Nos. 7 and 14 
Naval Squadrons. 
2504.6 c c 

386 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

If this should happen failure was likely, and very careful 
arrangements were therefore made to screen the assembly 
and early movements of the ships. These arrangements 
included aeroplane, seaplane, and airship patrols, and sea- 
ward patrols by surface craft, all directed against possible 
submarines, and air offensive patrols, over the fleet by 
aircraft from Dover, and over the Belgian coastal area by 
Sopwith 'Camels' from Dunkirk. Low bombing attacks on 
the German aeroplane and seaplane bases at Zeebrugge 
were also ordered. 

During the operation the Royal Air Force was re- 
quired to divert the attention of the defenders by making 
bombing attacks on batteries in the area of the objectives. 
These attacks were to begin two and a half hours before 
the naval zero hour, and were to continue, with increasing 
intensity, until the block-ships, with their supporting 
vessels, reached the objectives. It was hoped that the 
bombing attacks would impel the crews of the German 
batteries to seek shelter in their dug-outs, and so leave the 
guns more or less unattended at the time when the ex- 
pedition reached the coast, and it was also hoped that the 
searchlights would be diverted to the aeroplanes, away 
from the approaching fleet. During the final period of the 
approach j ourney, the aircraft were to drop a preponderance 
of incendiary bombs in order to cause fires which would 
illuminate the area, and immediately before the time of 
arrival of the ships the pilots were to release parachute flares 
for the same reason. 

The enterprise was planned for the night of the i Ith/i2th 
of April 1918. At 10.40 p.m. on the nth the first of the 
Handley Pages of No. 215 Squadron left its aerodrome, in 
bad weather, for Zeebrugge. For an hour, while bombs 
of Il2-lb. weight were being dropped at intervals, the 
Handley Page was presented as a target for the enemy 
searchHghts and anti-aircraft batteries, and it presumably 
received some damage because at 1.30 a.m., over the sea, 
one engine suddenly failed, and the aeroplane lost height 
and eventually crashed on the water seven miles off Ostend. 
The pilot. Captain J. R. Allen, was not seen again, but the 
observer. Captain P. Bewsher, and the gun-layer. Lieu- 


tenant M. C. Purvis, were picked up by a coastal motor- 
boat and taken back to Dunkirk. 

About the time that the Handley Page crashed, the 
weather became worse, with rainstorms and poor visibiHty, 
and no more than three of the six additional Handley Pages 
of Nos. 214 and 215 Squadrons, allotted for similar bomb- 
ing attacks, reached the neighbourhood of their objectives : 
one of them was forced to land in Holland and was in- 
terned with its crew. Meanwhile, the unfavourable weather 
had led to a decision for postponement of the naval attack, 
and the fleet accordingly withdrew. 

After a further postponement, the operation took place 
on the night of the 22nd/23rd of April. The delay had 
some effect upon the help which the Royal Air Force was 
able to give. At the time when the fleet turned back on the 
morning of the 12th of April the position of the British 
Army on the Western front was critical. The Germans had 
broken through the line on the Lys, and they were pressing 
hard towards the capture of the Channel ports. The 
evacuation of certain northern bases and depots became 
a matter for urgent consideration, and Major-General 
J. M. S almond put forward to the Air Ministry, as 
a precautionary measure, proposals for a dispersal to 
England, and to various parts of France, of the air units 
in the Dunkirk area. The suggestions were placed by 
the Air Council before the Board of Admiralty, who 
approved, and although the arrangements were never put 
into full effect, some important reductions were made in 
the Dunkirk bombing strength. The personnel of two 
Handley Page squadrons, Nos. 207 and 215, were sent to 
England, and the aeroplanes of the squadrons were allotted 
to No. 214 Squadron, which remained in the area, and also 
to No. 216 Squadron, which was part of the force stationed 
in the neighbourhood of Nancy for bombing attacks on 
German industrial and military targets. 

The result was that when the naval attack was made on 
the 22nd/23rd of April there was a much reduced bomber 
force available for support. In the afternoon of the 22nd, 
when the fleet, escorted by aircraft, had set out for Zee- 
brugge and Ostend,the weather was clear. By the evening. 

388 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

however, the sky had clouded over and a drizzle had set in, 
but the strength and direction of the wind were favourable 
for the laying of smoke-screens and Vice-Admiral Keyes 
made a signal that the attack would take place. The bad 
weather, unhappily, kept the night bombers on the ground, 
and aeroplanes played no part in the blocking operations, 
which added some stirring pages to British naval history. 
On the 23rd, when the weather improved after early 
mists, the air squadrons took photographs of the scene of 
the naval operations, and made a series of bombing attacks 
with the object of hampering salvage work by the enemy: 
in these attacks bombs of 112-lb. weight were dropped by 
the Sopwith 'Camels' of No. 213 Squadron. 

At Zeebrugge the naval effort had been successful in 
partly blocking the entrance, but at Ostend the attempt to 
seal the harbour had failed. The wind had veered at the 
last moment and had blown the smoke-screen back upon 
the ships, thus disclosing them to the enemy, as well as 
making navigation difficult, a difficulty which was made 
greater because the Germans had shifted, undetected, the 
important Stroombank buoy from which the block-ships 
were to steer for the harbour. The result was that the 
ships grounded to the eastward of the entrance. 

Although Ostend was still open, air photographs showed 
a crowding of torpedo craft and submarines at Bruges. 
A second attempt to block the entrance to the harbour at 
Ostend by sinking the Vindictive was prepared, and mean- 
while day-bombing attacks, dogged by bad weather, were 
directed by the limited resources available to the Vice- 
Admiral, Dover, against the shipping in Bruges, and also 
against Zeebrugge and Ostend. The weather was mostly 
unfavourable for night operations, but when night bombing 
was possible the targets allotted to No. 214 Handley Page 
Squadron, formerly under the Vice-Admiral, but now 
under the army, were military ones, namely the railway 
junctions of Courtrai, Roulers, Thourout, Tournai, and 
Lichtervelde, in connexion with the German offensive on 
the Lys. 

The Vice-Admiral of the Dover Patrol felt cause for 
complaint at his lack of bombing resources. It seemed to 



him that there was a golden opportunity to concentrate 
bombing attacks against the torpedo craft and U-boats 
which the air photographs revealed to be lying at Bruges 
subsequent to the Zeebrugge attack. He yearned for some 
of the squadrons which had passed from his control, and 
he wrote to the Admiralty on the ist of May pleading that 
two day and two night-bombing squadrons should be 
placed under his direct command. The Admiralty for- 
warded the letter to the Air Ministry on the 3rd of May, 
saying: 'Consequent on the successful operations lately 
carried out by the Navy on the Belgian Coast, My Lords 
have found it necessary to reconsider the opinion expressed 
by them in their letter of the i6th February, and they 
request that two day and two night-bombing squadrons 
may be placed under the direct orders of the Vice- 
Admiral, Dover, at the earliest possible moment. . . .' To 
this request the Air Ministry replied on the i6th of May 
that No. 214 Squadron would be requested to help, but 
said: 'It is regretted that, in view of the extreme urgency 
'of the demands for long-distance bombing squadrons else- 
'where, it has not been found possible to provide the 
'additional squadrons of this type which were asked for in 
'your letter. . . .' 

Meanwhile bad weather had delayed a renewal of the 
attempt to block Ostend, and it was not until the 9th of 
May that the conditions of weather, tide, and wind proved 
suitable. For the new attempt it was arranged that the 
ships should withhold their fire and the aeroplanes their 
bombing until the presence of the ships became known to 
the enemy. It was ordered that the aeroplanes should be 
in the air, ready to bomb the coastal batteries at Ostend, 
about forty minutes before the Vindictive was due to arrive 
at the harbour entrance: the signal for the aeroplanes to 
begin to drop their bombs would be the opening of fire by 
the monitors. Parachute flares were to be dropped from 
the air on pre-arranged positions. 

Air reconnaissances had been hampered by poor visibility 
for some days before the operation took place, but late on 
the 9th of May, when the expedition was already on its 
way, aeroplanes which had been making a seaward patrol 

390 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

returned to Dunkirk with news that the buoys usually off 
Ostend had apparently disappeared. Although darkness 
was setting in Major Ronald Graham and Lieutenant G. C. 
Mackay, in Sopwith 'Camels' of No. 213 Squadron, left at 
once, and they were able to satisfy themselves, from a 
low height, that the buoys had been taken away. Such a 
disconcertingpossibility, althoughconsidered tobe unlikely, 
had not been overlooked, and when Major Graham re- 
turned with his information action was taken at once to 
lay a special light buoy. This was done in good time, 
and the light formed a satisfactory point in connexion 
with the laying of smoke screens and for course-setting by 
the block-ships. 

At 1.43 a.m. on the loth of May, as the Vindictive 
approached the entrance to the harbour at Ostend, the 
pre-arranged signal to open fire was given and response 
was promptly made by the ships, by siege guns on land, and 
by the aeroplanes. The last-named were seven Handley 
Pages of No. 214 Squadron, and they began to bomb at i .45 
a.m. For forty-five minutes the bombing continued, during 
which time six 550-lb., fifty-three 112-lb., and twenty-six 
25-lb. bombs were aimed at the German batteries. Each 
aeroplane, in addition, from 2 a.m., when the Vindictive 
was timed to be in position at her objective, dropped, at 
intervals, six parachute flares mainly with the object of 
illuminating the pier-heads in the harbour entrance. As 
soon as the operation started a fog came up, but the pilots 
were able, by flying low, to fulfil their tasks. On their 
return, however, the fog had deepened, and it obscured the 
ground with the result that four of the pilots were forced 
to land away from their aerodrome : one crashed on land- 
ing near St. Omer and the aeroplane was wrecked and two 
members of the crew were injured. 

A low reconnaissance on the morning of the loth of May, 
made by Sopwith 'Camels' of No. 213 Squadron, reported 
that the Vindictive was lying high out of the water between 
the piers at Ostend, where it seemed that she was obstruct- 
ing about one-third of the channel. What had happened 
was that the fog and smoke had made it difficult for the 
Vindictive to feel her way to the entrance, and when she 


arrived it had been discovered that she v^as too close 
to the eastern pier to swing across the channel, as had been 
planned. She grounded to make an angle of about twenty- 
five degrees with the eastern pier, leaving a useful passage 
between her stern and the western pier. 

The Admiralty continued, after the second blocking 
attempt, to press the Air Ministry to allocate bombing 
squadrons to the Vice-Admiral of the Dover Patrol. On 
the 23rd of May, as a result of representations made by 
the Air Ministry to the War Office, a telegram was sent 
to Sir Douglas Haig saying: 'There is at the present 
'moment, as a result of recent successful naval operations 
'against Zeebrugge, a large accumulation of enemy sub- 
'marines in Bruges Docks which have no egress to the sea 
'at present, and it is of vital importance that this unique 
'opportunity of destroying enemy craft in their harbours 
'should be exploited to the full. It has been decided, 
'therefore, after careful consideration, that the bombing 
'units of the 5th Group should be reinforced temporarily 
'from units under your command. Kindly arrange to hand 
'over to the G.O.C., 5th Group, for such period as may be 
'necessary for this specific operation two de Havilland 9 
'Squadrons, one of which should be No. 211.' 

Sir Douglas Haig replied that No. 211 Squadron could 
not be spared, and the Air Ministry thereupon came to the 
help of Vice-Admiral Keyes by placing temporarily at his 
disposal, on the 31st of May, one of the home defence 
squadrons. No. 38, equipped with F.E.2b's, suitable for 
light night-bombing. Sir Douglas Haig contributed No. 98 
(D.H.9)Squadronon the25thof May. Meanwhile No. 214 
Handley Page Squadron had been requested, as from 
the 1 6th of May, to bomb Bruges on every available occa- 
sion. Vice-Admiral Keyes, in a telegram to the Admiralty 
on the 30th of May, stated his opinion that the F.E.2b's 
about to arrive at Dunkirk would prove of little real value, 
and he pointed out that No. 214 Squadron, which was 
supposed to be helping him, had no more than six Handley 
Pages available. He said: 'It is deplorable that such a 
'golden opportunity should be allowed to pass, but it is 
'not too late to make up some lost ground in the next few 

392 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

'days if a concentrated effort is made at once, for, from 
'yesterday's photographs it appears that the same craft are 
'still blocked at Bruges in the Canal and there is indica- 
'tion that the southern lock gate at Zeebrugge has been 
'damaged.' He recommended that No. 214 Squadron 
should be strengthened and placed under his direct orders. 
This was agreed to and No. 214 Squadron accordingly 
came under the control of Sir Roger Keyes on the 4th of 
June when a new Wing, the Eighty-second, was formed. 
On this date the vice-admiral had under his direct com- 
mand two fighter squadrons, one anti-submarine squadron, 
one reconnaissance squadron, two day-bomber squadrons, 
and two night-bomber squadrons. One of the day-bomber 
squadrons, however, No. 98 (D.H.9), returned to the con- 
trol of the G.O.C., Royal Air Force, on the 6th of June. 

It seems fair comment that insufficient weight was given 
to the importance of bombing the exceptional target pre- 
sented by Bruges dockyard. The attention of General 
Head-quarters in France was riveted to the Western front. 
It can be understood that in April, while the critical 
battle of the Lys was still raging, Sir Douglas Haig could 
contemplate no diversion of his somewhat slender bomb- 
ing resources for attacks, no matter how desirable, against 
naval targets in Belgium. At the end of April, however, the 
enemy offensive in Flanders had been brought to a stand- 
still. German offensive action did not reopen, against the 
French on the Chemin des Dames, until towards the end 
of May. It is true that Sir Douglas Haig had still to face 
the probability of another major offensive against the 
British army. It is true also that opposite the British front 
there were more targets of first-class military importance 
than the Commander-in-Chief had the bombing resources 
to attack systematically. When all is said, however, the 
fact remains that during May there was a luU in the Western 
front battles. When the circumstances of the time are 
fully considered, it seems clear that a temporary concen- 
tration of bombing aircraft could, and should, have been 
made with Bruges dock for target. 

The matter was one which might properly have been 
placed before General Foch, the Generalissimo. Before 

i9i8] COMMENT 393 

May was ended, he was himself calling upon Sir Douglas 
Haig to help the French with bombing and fighting 
squadrons. He also arranged for reciprocal help, from the 
French air force reserve, should the need arise as a result 
of a possible German attack on the British front. That is 
to say, his vision was ranging over the whole Western front 
and he was thinking in terms of an air concentration, irre- 
spective of national divisions, according to the changing 
needs of the general situation. Although the target at 
Bruges was a naval one, and not therefore a strict concern 
of General Foch, it seems that the occasion was one when 
a broader view could have been taken because of the 
apparent unusual and fleeting opportunity to strike a blow 
which was calculated to have an important effect upon the 
enemy's naval war operations.^ It may be remarked, in 
conclusion, that such targets, whether they might be naval 
or military, would be a proper concern for the staff of an 
air-striking force. 

Such bombing forces as were made available to the Vice- 
Admiral, Dover Patrol, attacked Bruges, Zeebrugge, and 
Ostend, as opportunity and weather offered, and during 
the month of IVIay thirty-six tons of bombs were dropped 
on Bruges, thirty-two on Zeebrugge, and nine tons on 
Ostend. There is no evidence that the attacks on Bruges 
dockyard or on Ostend caused any irreparable damage. At 
Zeebrugge results of some importance were achieved by 
two novel attacks which took place on the 28th of May. At 
2.25 a.m. a Handley Page of No. 214 Squadron, piloted by 
Captain C. H. Darley, glided over Zeebrugge from the sea, 
with engines silent, and arrived over the lock-gate at a 
height of about 200 feet. The Handley Page dropped three 
bombs of 520-lb. weight, one of which exploded close to 
the northern gate, while the others fell in the lock. Ten 
minutes after the Handley Page had bombed, Lieutenant- 

^ Since the above was written, it has come to light that Foch learned 
of congestion in the ports of Bruges and Zeebrugge from French naval 
air reconnaissances, and that he asked Sir Douglas Haig, on the 21st of 
May, to concentrate squadrons for intensive bombing in order to 'conclude 
the work so happily begun by the British Navy'. The reply from British 
G.H.Q. sent next day stated that all available squadrons had been placed 
at the disposal of the Vice-Admiral, Dover Patrol. 

394 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

Colonel P. F. M. Fellowes, commanding the Sixty-first 
Wing, left his aerodrome in a D.H.4 (Observer Sergeant 
H. Pritchard) to attack the lock-gate from a low height at 
dawn with two 230-lb. bombs. There is evidence that one 
or both of the bombs hit the target : the aeroplane was 
shot down and the occupants were made prisoners. 

The bombing of the German naval bases in Belgium 
brought retaliation. During the nights of the 4th, Sth, and 
6th of June strong attacks were made on the aerodromes in 
the Dunkirk area, and on the night of the 5th/6th, in 
particular, when about two hundred bombs were dropped, 
two hangars and two aeroplanes were destroyed, and one 
hangar and thirty-seven aeroplanes slightly damaged. On 
the night of the 6th/7th, when Coudekerque was attacked by 
about thirty aeroplanes, it happened that all the serviceable 
Handley Pages had left for a raid, and that three unservice- 
able aeroplanes had been moved to safer quarters. Although 
no aeroplanes were therefore bombed, two hangars were 
destroyed, and six were damaged together with various 
aerodrome buildings. The general damage was such that 
Coudekerque was forthwith abandoned, except as a land- 
ing-ground. In the same night at Teteghem aerodrome, 
which was bombed by the light of parachute flares, two 
hangars were destroyed and nine fighting aeroplanes some- 
what seriously damaged. 

Sir Roger Keyes at once asked the Admiralty for re- 
inforcements of one Handley Page squadron, one day 
bomber squadron, and one fighter squadron, and in his 
telegram he pointed out that German bombing had, in 
three nights, put forty-two aeroplanes out of action. He 
also asked for anti-aircraft guns and these were eventually 
supplied to him, but the Admiralty stated, in reply to the 
request for additional squadrons, that as an American 
bombing group was shortly to be placed under his orders 
it would be impossible to obtain further help from the 
Royal Air Force. The Admiralty added, hopefully, that, 
in any event, the American squadrons would be available 
before any additions could be provided from Royal Air 
Force resources. 

By way of reply to the enemy attacks many raids were 


made against targets at Bruges, Zeebrugge, and other 
centres in Belgium. During one night, the loth of June, 
No. 214 Handley Page Squadron dropped sixteen 112-lb. 
and four 250-lb. bombs on Thourout railway junction, 
four Ii2-lb. on Bruges docks, sixteen of the same weight 
on the La Brugeoise power-station and steelworks on the 
outskirts of Bruges,^ fourteen 112-lb. bombs on the Zee- 
brugge-Bruges canal, and three of 550-lb. weight on the 
Zeebrugge lock. 

It appeared that the naval air bombing induced the 
enemy to strengthen his air fighting units in Belgium. 
Enemy opposition noticeably increased throughout July 
and when, early in August, it became known that aircraft 
reinforcements had reached the important aerodrome at 
Varssenaere, west of Bruges, it was decided to make a large- 
scale attack on the aerodrome. The plan was to bomb at 
dawn with fighter aeroplanes, British and American, and 
to attack an hour later with British D.H.9 day-bomber 
squadrons. The squadrons which took part were Nos. 210 
and 213, and No. 17 U.S. Aero Squadron, all equipped with 
Sopwith 'Camels', and Nos. 211 and 218 D.H.9 Squadrons. 
In addition No. 204 Sopwith 'Camel' Squadron, after 
accompanying the bombing formation over the target, had 
orders to patrol at 5,000 feet against attempted attacks 
by hostile aircraft. 

After much practice, the operation took place on the 
13th of August. A total of fifty Sopwith 'Camels' set out 
at dawn and took up formation over Dunkirk harbour 
whence they proceeded, in two long lines, parallel with the 
coast about seven miles out to sea. Near Ostend, on a light 
signal from the bombing leader. Lieutenant W. E. Gray 
of No. 213 Squadron, the Sopwith 'Camels' turned inland 
and dived for their objective from 5,000 feet. As the 
bombers neared the aerodrome it was seen that three 
Flights of Fokkers were lined up on the ground with en- 
gines running, and that officers and mechanics were stand- 

^ An attack by a Handley Page of No. 214 Squadron on the La Brugeoise 
works on the 30th/3ist of May had caused the explosion of an ammunition 
dump alongside the works. The concussion effect was felt throughout the 
town and is said to have caused great alarm. 

396 NAVAL AIR OPERATIONS, 1918 [ch. x 

ing about. The surprise was complete and the Germans 
could do nothing before the bombs began to explode. For 
ten minutes the scene was one of chaos. Flames leaped 
from hangars and aeroplanes and from a petrol dump, 
buildings collapsed, and the rattle of the machine-guns 
of the Sopwith 'Camels' mingled with the noise of the 
exploding bombs. Particular attention was paid to a local 
chateau which served as quarters for the flying officers. 
As the bombers turned away after their intensive ten 
minutes, during which one hundred and thirty-six 25-lb. 
and six 40-lb. phosphorus bombs had been dropped, 
they saw desolation below them. All the Sopwith 
'Camels' returned safely at a low height, and one enemy 
fighter which was encountered by chance was destroyed 
over the sea. No. 211 Squadron subsequently bombed 
the aerodrome again, as arranged, with fourteen 112-lb. 
bombs and one of 230-lb. weight, but an attempted 
attack by the D.H.9's of No. 218 Squadron was frustrated 
by enemy fighter formations. 

The damage inflicted as a result of the raids on Varssen- 
aere cannot be exactly stated, but it is known that one of 
the bombs dropped by No. 21 1 Squadron made a direct hit 
on the oflicers' chateau, destroying the upper parts of two 
wings, that eight aeroplanes on the aerodrome were wrecked, 
that heavy casualties were caused, and that an additional 
twenty or thirty aeroplanes were destroyed in the hangars. 
It is also known that the aerodrome long remained entirely 

The subsequent story of the Dunkirk air units properly 
belongs to the narrative of the final Allied offensives on the 
Western front, as a result of which the German Army 
sued for peace. 


The Battle of the Aisne^ igi8 

[Maps, p. 414 and at end.] 

The German onslaught against the British on the Somme 
in March, and on the Lys in April, 191 8, had caused about 
250,000 British casualties. Some divisions had been so 
depleted that they could not again be made fit for active 
operations unless they could be given a period of quiet in 
v^hich to reorganize and to train the newly arrived drafts, 
mainly composed of young recruits. At the suggestion of 
General Foch it v^as agreed, after some hesitation, that five 
British divisions v^hich had suffered heavily, namely, the 
8th, 19th, 2 1st, 25th, and 50th, should change places v^ith 
French divisions on a part of the front near Rheims where 
it was not expected that there would be any abnormal 
activity. The divisions, under the G.O.C. and staff of the 
IX Corps, moved south in May, to the area of the French 
Sixth Army, and No. 52 (R.E.8) Squadron flew to an aero- 
drome at Fismes to provide the necessary air co-operation. 
Those British troops who had known the stricken battle- 
fields in the north were impressed by the quiet, by the 
comparative comfort, and by the gentle pleasantness of 
the new landscape: it seemed too good to be true. 

And so it proved. The British infantry and field artillery 
had not fully settled in when the crash came. There was 
no indication of what was in store. The R.E.8's of No. 52 
Squadron made reconnaissances, but the enemy side of the 
Ailette was thickly wooded and the air observers saw 
nothing suspicious, with the exception that in the early 
morning, and again in the late evening, of the 22nd, the 
23rd, and the 24th of May, distant clouds of dust were 
reported on the roads leading towards the front. It does 
not appear that these observations aroused particular 
interest. Had they done so, and had aeroplanes been sent 
out specially to investigate, it might have been discovered 
that the dust clouds were mostly being thrown up by 
heavy artillery moving into the area. In fact, the first news 


of the German plan was conveyed by two prisoners who 
were captured hy the French in the late afternoon of the 
25th of May, and if any doubts still remained they were 
finally set at rest at i a.m. on the 27th, when the peace of 
the Aisne was suddenly shattered by the opening of one 
of the greatest bombardments of the war. 

The Germans achieved surprise in that they had concen- 
trated more than 1,000 heavy guns, with ammunition, 
undetected. The precautions which they took to ensure 
secrecy were thorough, and were made easier because of the 
well- wooded nature of the country in the enemy back and 
forward areas. Furthermore, the Germans had unexpected 
allies in the river which ran part of its course through no- 
man's land. The Ailette was the home of numerous frogs 
whose nightly chorus of croaking excluded more distant 
sounds, such as must have resulted from large-scale move- 
ments of guns and material, from reaching the ears of 
front-line listeners. The Ailette, moreover, was unford- 
able and prevented the French from making raids to obtain 
prisoners for intelligence purposes. 

So far as No. 52 Squadron was concerned there is not 
much to be said. The reconnaissance area of the squadron 
covered only the front of the British IX Corps, and, in any 
event, the pilots and observers were flying over country 
which was new to them, as it was to the British Corps staff. 
A measure of familiarity with local conditions, with the 
habits and dispositions of an enemy, is necessary before the 
significance of changes, if any, may be adequately assessed. 
It was, moreover, the conviction of the Allied command that 
when the next German large-scale offensive was made it 
would take place in the Somme area as a continuation of 
the March attack. The Rheims front was therefore looked 
upon as more or less above suspicion, and complacency is 
not a state of mind which helps to elucidate the well- 
obscured intentions of an enemy. It is possible that had 
the IX Corps been on the British front the Royal Air 
Force long-distance reconnaissance squadrons would have 
been ordered to investigate the dust-clouds reported by 
No. 52 Squadron. As it was, the matter was one for the 
French Sixth Army command and it may be that the con- 

i9i8] DUST CLOUDS 399 

viction that the Germans would attack elsewhere, coupled 
with the fact that the British were still in the process of 
settling in — and adequate liaison between Allies requires 
time for its effective development — suffice to explain why 
no action was taken about the reported dust-clouds.^ 

The German bombardment began at i a.m. on the 27th 
of May on a front of twenty-seven miles, from Brimont to 
Leuilly, and, at 3.40 a.m., the enemy infantry assaulted. 
The Allied sector which was attacked was weakly held, the 
bombardment was devastatingly effective, and before the 
day had ended the Germans had penetrated the Allied 
area to a maximum depth of twelve miles. The British 
8th and 50th Divisions had ceased to exist except for 
scattered parties, but the 21st Division on the right, less 
heavily involved, was not in such dire plight. Only the 
25th Division, in reserve, remained intact, and it was com- 
pelled to take over the defence of the greater part of the 
IX Corps front. ^ 

The aeroplanes of No. 52 Squadron, under conditions 
of great difficulty, flew over the battle-field to report the 
German advance. They encountered opposition from 
formations of fighting aeroplanes which patrolled at low 
heights ahead of the German troops: the first British aero- 
plane out, at dawn on the 27th, was shot down. There was 
little co-operation with the artillery because many guns were 
lost or disabled, and few of the batteries which escaped had 
their aerials intact, or, if intact, erected. The air observers 
dropped message bags from time to time telling batteries 
of excellent targets of marching columns, but on the whole 
the co-operation with the artillery may be said to have 
broken down. The aerodrome at Fismes was increasingly 
shelled as the day passed: some transport and two aero- 
planes were hit, and there were casualties. In the afternoon 

^ There is evidence that the General Officer Commanding the British 
IX Corps was uneasy about the possibility of a German attack, but the 
representations which he made at French Sixth Army head-quarters were 

^ The British 19th Division was in reserve in the neighbourhood of 
Chalons under the French Fourth Army. During the night of the 
28th/29th of May it was transported in buses to the IX Corps sector to fill 
a gap in the French line across the Ardre Valley. 


No. 52 Squadron was forced to move back to an aerodrome 
at Cramaille, already overcrowded with French aeroplanes. 
The personnel of the squadron took rest where they 
could, and the R.E.S's were left out in the open. At dusk 
the German pilots began to bomb Cramaille aerodrome, 
and until dawn next morning the attacks were maintained 
with little intermission: as a result ten French aeroplanes 
were destroyed by fire. At daylight on the 28th No. 52 
Squadron was ordered by the French to move again. The 
aeroplanes were flown first to La Ferte and then to Trecon, 
south of Rheims, and the transport moved by a different 
route, joining the aeroplanes at Trecon on the evening of 
the 29th. During the confusion of the moves there were 
no flying operations, but on the 30th the squadron came 
into action once more, when low bombing and machine- 
gun attacks were made. 

By the evening of the 30th of May the German troops had 
reached the Marne on a front of ten miles, but the worst 
was over. For some days afterwards there was bitter 
fighting, but by the 6th of June, by which time General 
Foch had sent nearly thirty divisions to the assistance of 
the French Sixth Army, the way had been barred to a 
further advance, and the battle came to an end. The British 
troops were gradually withdrawn from the French area, 
and No. 52 Squadron, after resting at Trecon from the 
19th to the 30th of June, moved to Auxi-le-Chateau to 
join the III Brigade. The squadron had been able to do 
little that was useful once the German attack had begun, 
and may almost be said to have been in the way. This was 
partly because the attack had taken the Allies by surprise, 
with the result that no precautionary arrangements for 
withdrawal were in existence, and partly because the 
French army had no room, during an emergency, for a 
British squadron untrained in French methods of co- 

^he Battle of the Matz 

[Map, p. 414] 

It was assumed that the Germans would not long stay 
their hand. There was good evidence that there would be 


an attack on the immediate right of the German armies 
engaged in the Aisne battle, and that the objective would 
be Compiegne. Late on the 7th of June a telegram from 
General Foch informed British General Head-quarters 
that there were strong signs of an attack impending on the 
Montdidier-Noyon front, where German pilots were active 
over the French lines. The Generalissimo asked that the 
greatest possible concentration of British fighting and 
bombing air strength, additional to the units already 
attached to the French, should be directed towards the 
area Nesle-Roye. The time when these air units might 
intervene most effectively would be communicated later. 
The British reply, on the 9th of June, stated that the air 
units with the British Fourth Army had been increased 
to a total of eight fighter squadrons, three day bomber 
squadrons, and four night bomber squadrons, and that 
orders had been given that the maximum possible of this 
air strength was to be employed, when required, in the 
direction indicated. 

The Royal Air Force detachment referred to in the 
telegram from General Foch as already with the French 
was the Head-quarters IX Brigade. As a step towards en- 
suring air superiority in the neighbourhood of the possible 
German attack. General Foch had asked on the 29th of 
May that the Royal Air Force should hold five fighter 
squadrons and three day-bomber squadrons in readiness 
to move into the Beauvais area for operations in the direc- 
tion of St. Quentin and Laon. At the same time he had 
said that he would himself hold twelve French fighter 
squadrons and nine day-bomber squadrons ready to move 
north to help the Royal Air Force if the German attack 
should come not against the French, as expected, but 
against the British west of Hebuterne. 

On the 2nd of June there were no longer any doubts 
about where the blow would fall, and General Foch, by 
telegram on this day, had requested that the British 
squadrons, to receive which full arrangements had been 
made, should move south as soon as possible. The squad- 
rons had accordingly moved next day; they were Nos. 27, 
32, 49, 73, 103, 2 A.F.C., 43, and 80, together with the 

2504.6 D ^ 


head-quarters of the two Wings (the Ninth and Fift7-first), 
and their parks and ammunition column. 

In the threatened area the French also had made a special 
concentration of squadrons. On the ist of March 191 8 the 
French offensive air units had been grouped to form two 
mobile detachments known as the Aviation Reserve of the 
Group of Armies of the North, and as Es cadre No. 11. 
The latter unit, of a strength approximating 250 aeroplanes, 
mostly operated in the eastern part of the French front. 
The Aviation Reserve was reorganized, early in June, as 
the 1st Air Division^ which consisted of bombers {Escadres 
12 and 13, representing three groups of three squadrons 
each), and fighters {Escadres i and 2, or three groups of 
four squadrons each). The Air Division, which was a true 
strategic reserve available for intervention wherever 
operations of vital importance were taking, or were about 
to take, place had, at the time of the German attack in 
June 191 8, a total of 600 bomber and fighter aeroplanes.^ 
The offensive strength of the Royal Air Force, available 
for supporting the French on the front of twenty miles 
which was attacked, was approximately 200 aeroplanes. 

The IX Brigade had, when it moved south, come under 
the orders of Commandant L. Picard, the air commander 
of the French group of reserve armies (G.A.R.), and sub- 
sequently worked in direct co-operation with the French 
Air Division.^ Orders issued by Commandant Picard for the 
5th of June, in anticipation that the German attack would 
take place at any moment in the area Montdidier-Lassigny, 
stated that the main fighting strength of the IX Brigade 
would be held ready for offensive operations as soon as the 
battle should begin, but called for bombing attacks on Roye, 
where concentrations of enemy troops must be expected. 
In accordance with these orders the British day-bomber 
squadrons had released five tons of bombs over Roye on 
the 5th. The bombing attacks were switched next day to 
Ham and Chaulnes, and on the 7th there was a further 

^ By the 1st of August 191 8 the strength of the French 1st Air Division 
had increased to 630 aeroplanes, and hy the armistice to 732. 

^ See the French official history, Les Armees frangaises dans la Guerre, 
Tome VI, 2^ Volume, Annexes, 2^ Volume. 

i9i8] IX BRIGADE 403 

change when the allotted targets were Flavy-le-Martel and 
Nesle: dumps in the last-named town were set on fire by 
the bombers of No. 103 Squadron. On the 7th, in parti- 
cular, there was enemy opposition, the bombers, two of 
which were lost, encountering formations of twenty-five 
to forty German fighters. Such large formations were un- 
usual on the French front, and the operation orders issued 
on the evening of the 7th for the following day took note 
of the change. The bombing targets allotted to the IX 
Brigade were Ham and Fresnoy-les-Roye, and the full 
available fighting strength of the brigade was ordered to 
be sent as an escort to the bombers. The attack on Ham 
was abandoned because of clouds, but Nos. 49 and 103 
Squadrons, heavily escorted, bombed the second target 
without meeting opposition. 

The German offensive was launched at 3.20 a.m. on 
Sunday the 9th of June between Montdidier and Noyon. 
It was made by eleven divisions in the front line with seven 
in support, and was met by eight French forward divisions 
with four in support. The French defences were organized 
as three positions, front, intermediate, and main, with the 
front lightly held. The attack achieved a local success 
in the centre, along the Matz, and there was some 
further progress on the loth, but French counter-attacks 
next day with five fresh divisions retook some of the 
ground which had been lost and induced the enemy com- 
mand to believe that nothing could be gained by prolong- 
ing the battle. The Germans had made a maximum 
penetration of six miles, and they had captured guns 
and prisoners, but the success achieved was small in com- 
parison with previous offensives, and the main reason was 
that the French knew what was coming and were fully 
prepared: nor did they use the front fine as the fine of 

The IX Brigade was employed during the three days 
of the main battle on low-flying attacks, during which 
a total of sixteen tons of bombs were dropped and 
120,000 rounds of machine-gun ammunition were fired. 
The reports of the pilots reveal that targets of troops and 
transport were plentiful, and it would appear certain that 


heavy toll was taken. In connexion with the French counter- 
attack on the nth, it had been arranged that the British 
fighters should attempt to destroy the enemy observation 
balloons along the line Montdidier-St. Maur three hours 
before the French infantry were due to begin their advance. 
Seven German balloons were flying on the front specified, 
but they were protected by German fighter formations 
which succeeded in preventing the British pilots from 
getting within striking distance of the balloons: in the 
many combats which resulted six German aeroplanes were 
reported to have been destroyed. 

During the battle, which was intense and confused, 
there were instances of British pilots attacking French 
troops, and of French pilots and infantry firing upon Royal 
Air Force aeroplanes. One British pilot was wounded and 
forced to land by a French two-seater which did not cease 
to attack even when the aeroplane was on the ground. 
There was an occasion on the day of the French counter- 
attack when a British pilot who reported a concentration 
of German troops and transport in a wood was allowed to 
lead a formation to bomb the enemy, with the result that 
eight French officers were wounded and seventy-five horses 
were killed. Consequent upon this very regrettable happen- 
ing orders were issued by the IX Brigade which made Royal 
Air Force squadron commanders personally responsible for 
ensuring that each pilot, before he set out upon a mission, 
was provided with a map showing the battle line according 
to the latest available military information. There had 
been precautions against the danger of British aeroplanes 
being mistaken for those of the enemy. When the squadrons 
of the IX Brigade had arrived in the area, aeroplanes 
had been flown to the French aerodromes to give the French 
pilots an opportunity of studying them at close quarters, 
and they had also been flown low above the French infantry 
for a similar reason. There would be no profit in recounting 
the above episodes except to illustrate the imperative need, 
when allies are called upon to work together in unusual 
circumstances, for close and continuous liaison. It seems 
obvious that the British pilots could not have been kept 
informed, on the day of the French counter-attack, of the 


changes in the position on the ground : if they had been, 
the mistaken bombing attack could not have been made. 

While the battle of the Matz was still in progress Major- 
General J. M. Salmond issued a memorandum to his 
brigade commanders in which he said it was probable that 
the enemy would make a supreme effort to overwhelm the 
British front. 'His attacks since the 21st of March on the 
*Somme, on the Lys, on the Aisne, and on the present 
'battle front', he said, 'have without doubt been made 
'with the object of forcing the Allies to use up their avail- 
'able reserves. He has to a great extent succeeded in this 
'object. He has, at the same time, been making prepara- 
'tions along the whole of the British front for an attack on 
'a large scale. These preparations are now complete. No 
'further indications can be obtained of his selected point of 
'attack by means of increased dumps, light railways, &c., 
'since these are already in position and are uniform along 
'the whole front. In order to prevent surprise, such as 
'apparently occurred on the last attack on the Aisne, it is 
'a vital necessity that his approach march be discovered. 
'The time during which this approach march takes place 
'is, without doubt, during the night, and the very early 
'hours of the morning during any period up to five nights 
'of the day selected for the attack.' The Royal Air Force 
brigade commanders were therefore instructed to see that 
all likely approach routes were reconnoitred twice nightly, 
and they were told that although little that was definite 
might be discovered, even slight indications could prove 
to be of vital importance. Furthermore it was desirable 
that the same areas as were reconnoitred in the dark should 
be surveyed again immediately before dawn, and it would 
be necessary, because of the restricted visibility at that 
hour, for pilots to fly close to the ground to make the task 
of their observers easier. 'Responsibility that the British 
'army is not surprised is on the Royal Air Force' was the 
concluding sentence of the paper. 

Two days later, in a personal memorandum which was 
sent to Sir Douglas Haig, General Foch made a compre- 
hensive survey of the disposition of the German forces, and 


stated his conclusion that the enemy had three possibiHties 
open to him, namely, (i) an offensive in a sector of the front 
between the sea and the Somme, (ii) a continuation of 
the attacks between Montdidier and Rheims, and (iii) a 
surprise assault on some other part of the front, in Cham- 
pagne, at Verdun, or in Lorraine. So far as concerned the 
first two possibilities the Germans could, because of the 
existing dispositions of their reserves, make a concentration 
by means of night road marches as they had done im- 
mediately before their offensives in March and May. It 
was necessary, therefore, that all the approach routes to 
the front between the sea and Rheims should be carefully 
watched, particularly at night from low heights. The 
third plan, of a surprise assault, could not be adopted 
without a considerable movement of troops, &c., by 
rail, and the air services should therefore arrange for 
reconnaissance of the more important transverse railways, 
as well as of the enemy back areas between the sea and 

In accordance with the memorandum of General Foch 
a detailed plan for day and night reconnaissance of the rail- 
way systems, which aimed at assessing the density of the 
traffic along the whole German front between Flanders 
and Alsace, was drawn up by the French staff for French 
squadrons. The Royal Air Force was consequently absolved 
from this particular duty on the British part of the front. 
It still had the responsibility, however, of keeping a close 
watch upon the general enemy area opposite the British 
armies, and it was considered that best information about 
the German intentions would be obtained from a systema- 
tic photographic reconnaissance of enemy billeting areas. 
Maps, specially prepared by the intelligence branch at 
General Head-quarters, on which the important German 
billeting areas were marked, together with the roads by 
which enemy artillery might be expected to move into the 
area opposite the British from other parts of the front 
recently active, were issued, and the Royal Air Force 
photographic reconnaissances were based upon these maps. 
Air observers, while engaged upon photographic duties, 
were given instructions to keep a general look-out for 


abnormal train activity, and for any movement of heavy 
artillery along the roads distant from the front. 

Bearing in mind the possibility of an attack being made 
against the British front, Major-General J. M. Salmond 
suggested to General Head-quarters on the 15th of June 
that the French should be asked to hold the IX Brigade in 
readiness for immediate return. In the result, the squad- 
rons of the IX Brigade moved north into the British area 
on the 2 1 St of June, the Ninth Wing of the Brigade being 
reinforced by Nos. 25 and 62 Squadrons from the Eighty- 
first Wing, which was temporarily disbanded.^ 

As soon as the head-quarters IX Brigade once more 
came under British orders, a concentrated bombing scheme 
was initiated. The problem of dislocating the enemy rail- 
way communications by means of bombing attacks had 
been studied from the early days of the war, and the study 
had been intensified during 191 8. In April memoranda 
upon the problem had been placed before the Supreme 
War Council by the British and French sections of the 
Inter-Allied Transportation Council, and in these papers 
principles were set out upon which, it was suggested, the 
selection of railway bombing targets should be based. It 
appeared impracticable, it was said, to cut the German 
railway communications at a distance of more than fifty 
miles from the front because of the multiplicity of lines 
available. Suitable objectives could be divided into (i) 
junction stations and large depots, (ii) wayside stations, 
and (iii) sections between stations. Damage to the track 
or to a train in a large junction station might not have 
much effect upon traffic because there would be many lines, 
and because gangers would normally be at hand to begin 
the work of repair without loss of time. Although hits 
might be made on workshops or engine-sheds, with resul- 
tant damage to locomotives or machinery, there would be 
little or no consequent interruption of local traffic. Nor 
was it to be expected that the damage inflicted would be 
on a scale large enough to affect the enemy's general rail- 

^ The Eighty-first Wing was re-formed as a Corps Wing on the 1st of 
July 1918. On the 24th of June the IX Brigade again took over the Fifty- 
fourth (Night) Wing. 


way transport position. If the watering arrangements in 
a junction station could be destroyed the interruptions of 
traffic would be immediate and important, but a water 
tower offered too small a target for definite attack. 

The bombing of wayside stations did not appear to 
present a greater prospect of useful results for the reason 
that they also, like the larger stations, were usually equipped 
with a number of lines, and had repair gangs at hand or 
quickly procurable. It seemed, therefore, that traffic could 
most effectively be interrupted if a line was destroyed 
between stations. The destruction of a bridge, viaduct, 
or running train, offered the best results, but targets 
so small were difficult to hit. A straight stretch of line, 
however, formed a fairly easy mark, and if it could be 
hit where it ran through a cutting it was obvious that 
considerable dislocation of traffic must ensue. The enemy 
would normally be making the greatest use of his railway 
system, at a distance from twelve to fifty miles behind the 
front, just before sundown and just after dawn, and if 
therefore it was not possible to maintain bombing attacks 
throughout the twenty-four hours, they would offer the 
best results if they began about one hour before dusk and 
were continued at intervals throughout the night until an 
hour after daybreak. In pursuance of these general assump- 
tions the members of the Inter-Allied Transportation 
Council had put forward a comprehensive selection of 
targets on the German railway system. 'It is considered', 
said the memorandum dealing with the front opposite the 
British armies, 'that almost complete interruption can be 
'effected by cutting railways between Marcoing and Cam- 
'brai, between St. Quentin and Busigny, and between Ter- 
'gnier and Laon', and the sections along these lines most 
suitable for bombing attack were specifically indicated. 
The various papers had been forwarded to Royal Air Force 
head-quarters which had decided, after due consideration, 
that in the existing circumstances it was impossible to 
bomb effectively, and to keep under bombardment from 
the air, the small targets indicated. 

At the beginning of June the matter had been raised 
again, this time by General Plumer, commanding the 


Second Army. In a memorandum which he submitted to 
General Head-quarters he pleaded for concentrated bomb- 
ing attacks upon carefully selected points on the railways. 
To achieve success, he said, the same targets, which should 
be few, must be attacked continuously over a period, at least 
for six or seven successive nights. He suggested two suitable 
points on the system opposite the Second Army, namely, 
Armentieres station and the railhead between Comines 
and Wervicq. British General Head-quarters had been 
well disposed towards the suggestions put forward by 
General Plumer, but because the head-quarters IX Brigade 
was at the time working under the orders of the French 
it had not been possible to proceed further. 

When, however, the IX Brigade returned from the 
French area on the 21st of June the matter was reviewed, 
and it was then decided to concentrate bombing operations 
against a few selected points of the enemy communications. 
On the 23rd of June General Head-quarters issued instruc- 
tions, based on a memorandum by Major-General J. M. 
Salmond, giving the following targets, specifically chosen 
to hinder an enemy concentration on the approximate line 
La Bassee-Ypres.^ The squadrons to take part were Nos. 
49, 29, 98, 103, and 107 (day bombers), and Nos. 58, 83, 
and 207 (night bombers). 

(i) Valenciennes railway junction and the line Valen- 

ciennes-St. Amand. 
(ii) Tournai junction and the line running east from 

that town, 
(iii) The Fives junction south of Lille, and the line 

Lille-Roubaix, and 
(iv) Courtrai junction, and the line running to the 

The operations, which began on the 24th of June, were 
looked upon as experimental. It was agreed that the intelli- 
gence branch at General Head-quarters should compile 
the fullest possible information about the bombing results, 
and that frequent discussions upon the subject should take 

^ Three other schemes were prepared about the same time to meet con- 
centrations against other possible fronts of attack. 


place between the army and air staffs. Royal Air Force 
head-quarters hoped that the operations might provide 
material for decisions upon the following points : 

(i) to what extent it was possible to interrupt com- 
munications hy means of attacks on selected lengths 
of railway line, 

(ii) whether it was better for pilots to fly in close forma- 
tion and drop their bombs together at a signal from 
the leader, or to follow one another, each taking his 
own aim, and 

(iii) how the material effects of comparatively low bomb- 
ing by night compared with those obtained as a 
result of day attacks from a height. 

The bombs used were mostly of ii2-lb. weight, and in 
a typical attack by day some thirty bombs of this weight 
were dropped. The night bombers carried a similar weight, 
except the Handley Pages of No. 207 Squadron which 
in a single night dropped a total of one hundred and 
sixty Ii2-lb. bombs. In the period from the 24th of 
June to the 2nd of July the four day-bomber squadrons, 
from heights varying between 11,000 and 14,000 feet, 
dropped 19 tons of bombs on their allotted objectives 
of railway junctions and lengths of line, and 10 tons 
on miscellaneous targets when, for various reasons, the 
railways could not be reached. The three night 
squadrons dropped 42 tons of bombs on their railway 
objectives, and 5 tons elsewhere. At a conference on the 
1st of July air photographs and all available information 
about the results of the bombing were studied and the 
conclusion was reached that attacks upon sections of rail- 
way line should cease. Pilots and observers had contended 
that bombs which exploded quite close to a length of line 
did no apparent damage, and the air photographs sup- 
ported this view. It was therefore decided to concentrate 
the attacks upon the four railv/ay junctions, but to include 
any trains which might be seen on the lines radiating from 
the junctions. In the next four days, which were not very 
favourable because of wet weather, 3f tons of bombs 
were dropped by day (plus ij tons on targets other than 


those allotted), and 9^ tons at night (plus f ton). On the 
6th of July a further experiment was ordered with the 
object of testing whether better results would be obtained 
by day bombers who dropped their bombs in formation 
at a signal from the leader, or from those who attacked 
as individuals. The weather, however, continued to be 
unfavourable, and as there were only a few attacks, made 
from 12,000 feet or higher, there was not much to be 

The total weight of bombs dropped during the course 
of the various experiments was 106 tons, of which about 
twenty tons were not aimed at the allotted targets. In a 
report dealing with the experiments, Major-General J. M. 
Salmond pointed out that they were cut short owing to 
the transfer of the IX Brigade to the French front. 'No 
reliable data have, therefore, been obtained,' he said, 'but 
so far as experience goes it seems that more interruption 
can be caused to communications by bombing important 
junctions than by attempting to destroy lengths of rail- 
way line. Damage to the latter is nil unless the bomb 
explodes within a very few feet of the track and in any 
case is quickly repaired. In a junction, in addition to the 
tracks, there are other objectives, such as signal boxes, 
engine sheds, &c., the destruction of which is bound to 
dislocate traffic more or less. The results of experiments 
are also inconclusive as to whether it is best to drop bombs 
in formation on a signal from the leader or for each pilot 
to take his own aim, but it appears likely that the former 
will usually give the better results when bombing by day 
from a height. It may sometimes be best for each sub- 
formation of 3 to 6 machines to drop its bombs simul- 
taneously on a signal from its leader in place of the whole 
formation doing so. No reliable data have yet been 
obtained as regards the comparative results of bombing by 
night and from a height by day.'^ 

"^ Experiments were also made at home throughout 191 8. For a paper 
setting out general conclusions as a result of the home experiments as well 
as of experience on the Western front, see Appendix XXIII, Methods of 
Bombing. See also the section dealing with 'German Night Bombing', 
pp. 419-32. 


7 he Second Battle of the Marne 
[Map, p. 414] 

The squadrons of tlie IX Brigade, it will be observed, 
had been moved back to the French front, and the reason 
for this must be explained. The main German reserves, 
amounting to tv^enty-five divisions, v^ere concentrated 
under Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria on the German right, 
opposite the British front in Flanders. It w^as, hov^ever, 
the opinion of General Foch, as expressed hj him in a 
directive issued on the ist of July, that if a German attack 
took place in Flanders it v^ould be a subsidiary one, and 
that the main enemy offensive v^ould be made betv^een 
Lens and Chateau Thierry, v^ith either Abbeville or Paris 
for objective. An alternative, or possibly subsidiary, 
attack might be made in Champagne. July v^as not 
many days old before the reports of French air observers, 
supplemented by air photographs, fixed the attention of 
General Foch to Champagne. So definite and comprehen- 
sive w^ere the indications that, on the 12th of July, in a 
further directive^ General Foch revised the viev^s he had 
put forv^ard at the beginning of the month. He v^as now^ 
of the opinion, he said, that the attack in Champagne, 
obviously impending, v^as being planned as a decisive blow 
against the French armies. On the loth he had, as a pre- 
cautionary measure, asked Sir Douglas Haig to hold a 
group of fighter and bomber squadrons ready to reinforce 
the French air service in the Champagne sector, and in the 
early hours of the 13th he sent a telegram requesting that 
the squadrons should move to named aerodromes (Rozoy- 
en-Brie, Orneaux, Pezarches, Chailly-en-Brie) as soon as 
possible. Through rainstorms on the 14th of July Nos. 32, 
49, 43, 54, 73, 80, 27, 98, and 107 Squadrons flew south to 
join the French, and the head-quarters of the IX Brigade 
opened under the orders of the French Group of Armies of 
the centre. 

General Foch also wished to be supplied with reinforce- 
ments of British divisions, and on the 12th and 13th he 
asked for six to be moved without delay, and he quickly 
submitted a request that four more divisions should be 


held ready to move when wanted. Two divisions, the 
1 2th and 13th, accordingly moved south on the 13th of 
July, and two others, the 51st and 62nd, began to entrain 
the following day, together with the head-quarters of the 
XXII Corps, to which No. 82 Squadron was allotted: the 
squadron flew from Le Bourget to Haussimont on the 17th 
of July. Sir Douglas Haig was not happy about meeting 
the further demands of General Foch because the indica- 
tions still pointed to the launching of an important German 
oifensive on the British front, between Ypres and Haze- 
brouck, some time about the 20th of July. ^ At a personal 
interview on the 15th, however, between Generals Haig 
and Foch, it was decided that two additional British 
divisions, the 15th and 34th, should be sent to complete 
the British XXII Corps with the French. Sir Douglas Haig 
had been requested, on the 13th, to extend the fighting 
patrols of the Royal Air Force to cover the somewhat 
denuded front of the French First Army next to the British. 
He had accordingly undertaken to extend the patrol area 
of the British Fourth Army fighting squadrons as far south 
as Montdidier, but he pointed out that, in the absence of 
the IX Brigade, it would be impossible, if the German air 
service should become unusually active on the British 
front, for the British air squadrons to operate south of 

Meanwhile at midnight on Sunday the 14th of July the 
German bombardment had opened with a crash that 
awakened the inhabitants of Paris to a new attempt to 
possess their city. At dawn, 4 a.m., on the 15th, the 
German infantry moved. For three days the opposing 
armies were locked in a bitter struggle, with American 
divisions assisting the French. The progress of the fight- 
ing demonstrated that the tide was already on the 
turn, and by the evening of the 17th, when the attack- 
ing divisions had already shot their bolt, the maximum 

^ It can now be stated that the German supreme command planned to 
make such an attack on the date named, and that all preparations had been 
made. Before the German attack could be launched, however, General 
Foch had taken the oifensive, which compelled the German command to 
abandon its Flanders plan. 


advance, the result of long planning and of great sacrifice 
in battle, had taken the German troops no farther than six 
miles from their jumping-off places. 

The Royal Air Force squadrons of the IX Brigade 
helped the French Air Division to stem the German 
offensive. The British squadrons were mainly engaged in 
attacks against ground targets from low heights, and, in 
particular, in attacks on the numerous footbridges thrown 
by the enemy across the Marne, some of which were 
destroyed by bombing. The German single-seater pilots 
strenuously contested the Allied low-flying activities, and 
during the three days of the struggle eleven British aero- 
planes were shot down within the enemy lines and four 
were wrecked after being damaged in combat : in addition, 
one officer was killed and thirteen officers were wounded. 

On the 1 8th of July General Foch, at the suggestion of 
General Mangin, launched a tentative counter-offensive 
against the western shoulder of the salient on the front 
between Chateau Thierry and Soissons, with subsidiary 
assaults against other parts of the salient. The offensive, 
in which American, British, and Italian troops fought with 
the French, succeeded so well that, after three days, the 
German supreme command was compelled to order a with- 
drawal. By the beginning of August the German gains on 
the Marne, made as a result of the offensives in May and 
June, had been abandoned. More important, the initia- 
tive had passed from the enemy, exhausted by his many 
offensives, to the Allies. 

In the Allied counter-attack which began on the i8th 
of July No. 82 Squadron co-operated with the British 
51st and 62nd Divisions. The task of the squadron was 
to report the forward movements of the infantry, but 
German troops were also attacked as opportunity offered. 
The bomber and fighter squadrons of the IX Brigade were 
employed against ground targets so long as the Allied 
troops were advancing and there was confusion within the 
German lines, but when the forward movement began to 
slacken the bombers were switched to attacks, from high 
altitudes, on enemy dumps and aerodromes and on targets 
along the lines of communication. 


As a result of the Allied success on the Marne the 
German supreme command had been compelled to with- 
draw divisions from its reserve concentration in Flanders. 
In consequence a German offensive against the British 
armies had, from being probable, become unlikely. At an 
Inter- Allied conference held on the 23rd of July, when the 
success of the Allied counter-attack on the Marne was 
already assured. General Foch expounded plans for in- 
creasing the pressure upon the enemy by means of 
co-ordinated local oifensives with definite limited objec- 
tives. It is of interest that on the same day Royal Air 
Force head-quarters in France cancelled the scheme for 
systematic photography of the enemy billeting areas, 
which had been in progress since the middle of June, and 
ordered that watch be kept instead on the main enemy 
railway communications. 

Minor Operations 

Early in June, at the time when the French were being 
attacked on the Aisne, General Foch had written to Sir 
Douglas Haig to point out that it would be of advantage 
to pin down the German reserves by means of offensive 
operations north of the river Somme. Whatever opera- 
tions were undertaken should, he suggested, have a well- 
defined object in view, such, for example, as the elimination 
of the bulge east of the forest of Nieppe, and in order 
to ensure economy in the numbers of troops employed it 
was important that the plans should be adequately pre- 
pared beforehand with particular attention to the use of 
tanks. Consequent upon the memorandum of General 
Foch, Sir Douglas Haig had instructed his army comman- 
ders to put forward their proposals. Arising out of the 
proposals submitted, minor attacks took place on the 28th 
of June, when the British line was advanced east of the 
Nieppe forest, and on the 4th of July, when an action was 
fought at Hamel which greatly influenced the British 
tactics in the subsequent battle of Amiens. 

Sir Henry Rawlinson and the staff of the Fourth 
Army planned the Hamel attack with fine imagination. 


Objectives, tiie capture of which would improve the line 
of the Fourth Army, were selected, and to attain them Sir 
Henry Rawlinson decided to employ a comparatively small 
force of infantry — ten battalions — on a wide front, with 
sixty tanks in support. To overpower the noise of the 
tanks while they were assembling, the F.E.2b's of No. loi 
Squadron flew at night about the front line area. At i a.m. 
on the 4th of July the tanks were along their starting- 
line, and at 3.10 a.m. the artillery barrage opened. The 
date for the attack — Independence Day — had been tact- 
fully chosen by Sir Henry Rawlinson because four com- 
panies from an American division had been incorporated, 
by platoons, among the attacking troops. This was the 
first time in the war when American soldiers went into 
action side by side with British infantrymen, and the 
beginning was a favourable one because the execution of 
the plan of attack came near perfection. As the artillery 
barrage opened the infantry and the tanks moved, and so 
complete was the surprise that by 5 a.m. all battalions 
except one had reached their final objectives. 

No. 3 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, was mainly 
responsible for the work of tactical co-operation with the 
assaulting troops, and No. 8 Squadron for similar duties 
with the tanks, while No. 9 Squadron had the special task 
of dropping small arms ammunition at pre-arranged points 
for the use of the forward infantry. This supply work was, 
within its limits, an unqualified success. There were six 
centres where, by pre-arrangement, ammunition was to 
be dropped, and when the advancing infantry reached 
these centres they were instructed to display the letter 'N' 
for purposes of identification and as a signal to the aero- 
planes of No. 9 Squadron: in addition, machine-gun posts 
were to be supplied if they displayed the letter *V'. An 
aeroplane carried two boxes, each containing a total of 
1,200 rounds, which were attached to cylinders holding 
parachutes on modified bomb release gears. Eight aero- 
planes were made responsible for carrying to the dumps, 
and four were allotted for answering 'V calls from the 
machine-gun posts. About thirty minutes sufficed for the 
double journey from the aerodrome to the forward dumps. 


and ninety-three boxes of ammunition were dropped 
during the day of the attack, at a cost of two R.E.S's 

On the night before the attack selected enemy billeting 
areas had been bombed by No. loi Squadron (nine 1 12-lb. 
and three hundred and fifty 25-lb. bombs), and on the day 
of the action dumps and bivouac areas were bombed by 
No. 205 Squadron. The fighter squadrons flew low over 
the enemy lines as soon as the assault had begun, and the 
pilots made many attacks on infantry, guns, and trans- 
port, often from a height of about 200 feet. German 
aeroplanes did not appear over the battle front until 
about 9.30 a.m., when, and subsequently, they made 
desultory attempts to interfere with the work of the Royal 
Air Force : five British aeroplanes did not return to their 
aerodromes, and five German fighters and one balloon 
were destroyed. 

In a minor operation in the north on the 19th of July, 
which led to the occupation of the village of Meteren and 
of ground which had given the enemy good observation 
of the approaches to the village, the attacking infantry 
made use of tin disks, worn on the back, which proved easy 
to see from the air and enabled the observers accurately to 
report the progress of the troops. 

Meanwhile, all armies had been instructed by Sir 
Douglas Haig to prepare plans for a resumption of the 
offensive. In accordance with these orders. General 
Rawlinson, the Fourth Army Commander, considered 
schemes for an attack south of the Somme with the object 
of freeing Amiens and the Paris-Amiens railway. After 
the failure of the German Rheims attack on the 15th 
of July, General Rawlinson urged strongly, in an inter- 
view with Sir Douglas Haig on the i6th, that he should 
be allowed to proceed. The Commander-in-Chief gave 
his provisional approval, and next day the Fourth Army 
Commander was told to go ahead with his prepara- 
tions. There was a conference on the 23rd, called by 
General Foch, who said he was anxious that the British 
attack should be made at the earliest possible moment, 
2504.6 r P 


and indicated that the French First Army would co- 
operate. The attack was fixed to begin on the loth of 
August, but on the 28th of July General Foch sent a letter 
to Sir Douglas Haig in which he pointed out that the 
Germans were falling back from the Marne with increasing 
speed, and he said they would doubtless establish them- 
selves behind some river in order to obtain time for re- 
organization. In the circumstances, said General Foch, it 
would be of advantage if the British Fourth Army and the 
French First Army began their proposed operations as soon 
as possible, because every day gained would mean that the 
enemy would be less prepared to withstand the blow. As 
it was desirable that the operations of the two armies should 
be under a single command, he asked Sir Douglas Haig 
to take control. As a result of the representations made by 
General Foch, the date for the attack was put forward from 
the loth to the 8th of August. 

Orders issued by British General Head-quarters on the 
^9th of July set out the objects of the attack. When the 
line of what had been the Amiens outer defence system was 
reached, the Fourth Army, keeping its left flank on the 
Somme, was to push forward to Chaulnes, while the French 
First Army, resting its right on the Avre, similarly pressed 
the enemy towards Roye. On the 3rd of August the British 
plans were extended. The Germans were still rapidly fall- 
ing back from the Marne, and Allied optimism had grown, 
and on that day Sir Douglas Haig told General Foch that 
he had given Ham, fifteen miles beyond Chaulnes, as the 
ultimate obj ective. At a conference two days later, attended 
by his subordinate commanders. Sir Douglas Haig ex- 
plained that if all went well with the British and French 
attack the Generalissimo intended to employ more French 
reserves south-east of Montdidier, and it was clear that 
the operation might well develop into one of great magni- 
tude. In order that rapid advantage might be taken of 
whatever success was gained, Sir Douglas Haig said he 
had assembled three British divisions in general reserve 
close behind the battle front, and that further divisions 
were being held behind the remainder of the British front 
in readiness to move. 


German Night Bombing 

[Map, at end] 

While the business of preparation for a large-scale offen- 
sive was proceeding, with the whole crowded area behind 
the front alive with activity, German bombing operations 
created some anxiety. The enemy advance against the 
British on the Somme and on the Lys in March and April 
had endangered the railway system. 'The culmination was 
reached in May 191 8, when the great lateral line from 
St. Just, via Amiens, to Hazebrouck had to be abandoned 
as a railway route owing to enemy shell fire. Our armies 
were then penned into a narrow strip of country, possess- 
ing only one lateral railway communication, through 
Abbeville and Boulogne. Most of the forward engine 
depots had been lost, and several of the important engine 
depots remaining were so close to the enemy as to be 
practically useless, and our one lateral, along which all 
reserves and reinforcements drawn from one part of the 
front to be thrown in at another had to be moved, was 
threatened daily and nightly by persistent air attacks on 
the bridge over the Canche river at Etaples.'^ 

The Germans knew the importance of destroying, and 
the British of protecting, this line of communications. 
Every bridge, from Dunkirk to Abbeville, was separately 
considered, no doubt by the commands on both sides, but 
certainly by the British. Where there were masonry via- 
ducts, overhead cover, designed to cause the bombs to 
explode on the surface, was provided. At important points 
alternative routes were surveyed, and the material neces- 
sary for creating a loop-way was assembled in the neigh- 
bourhood. A specially vital point, other than the Etaples 
bridge, was the lofty bridge at Wimereux, near Boulogne, 
where survey revealed that it would be impossible to make 
a useful deviation. Here a compromise was made by 
placing a bursting cover of steel rails on the bridge and 
by erecting massive timber supports under the arches in 

^ 'Land Transportation in the Late War', by Colonel M. G. Taylor, 
C.M.G., D.S.O., in the Journal of the Royal United Service Institution, 
November 1921. 


order to prevent them from collapsing if a hit should be 

The Etaples bridge over the Canche Estuary, which 
carried about one hundred military trains each day, was 
a long masonry viaduct. When the German advance en- 
hanced the military importance of this line, already great, 
it was decided to construct an alternative line about a mile 
above the existing bridge, and there ensued a race against 
time which the German air force came near to winning. 
During the night of the I9th/20th of May, at the time 
when the last of the German aeroplane raids was being 
made on London, fifteen bombers attacked the Etaples 
bridge. Only one bomb fell close and this did no damage: 
most of them exploded in neighbouring hospitals and 
camps with terrible effect, for the killed numbered 182 
and the wounded 643, while 10 persons were not accounted 
for. One of the German bombers was shot down, and the 
captured crew insisted that they did not know that hos- 
pitals were situated near the railway. They also expressed 
surprise, not without reason, that large hospitals should 
be placed close to air targets of first-rate military impor- 
tance.^ In another attack on the 30th/3ist of May, 
when 41 civilians and 3 soldiers were killed, and 4 soldiers 
wounded, a direct hit by a bomb of heavy weight was 
made, soon after 11 p.m. on the 30th, on the Etaples 
bridge, a span of which collapsed. The German offensive 
against the French on the Chemin des Dames had opened 
three days earlier, and the railway was being worked to 
its full capacity to provide for the rapid movement of 
two French reinforcing divisions from Flanders to the 
threatened area. It happened that the construction of the 
alternative line had already progressed to the point when 
it was possible to make it temporarily usable, and the 
French troop movements were resumed, by way of the 

^ An inquiry into the matter of the bombing elicited, in a report made 
by the Director of Mihtary Operations at the War Office, the statement : 
'We have no right to have hospitals mixed up with reinforcement camps, 
'and close to main railways and important bombing objectives, and until 
'we remove the hospitals from the vicinity of these objectives, and place 
'them in a region where there are no important objectives, I do not think 
'we can reasonably accuse the Germans.' 


alternative bridge, at 3 a.m. on the 31st of May. Further- 
more, the railway construction troops in the neighbour- 
hood, who had been warned that they must hold them- 
selves ready for repair work at a moment's notice, had been 
able to make the damage to the original bridge sufficiently 
good for traffic to be resumed at 10 p.m. on the 3 ist. Less 
than an hour after the repairs had been completed the 
bombers came again, and although they failed to hit the 
bridge, they succeeded in cutting a part of the line, and 
they also set fire to a hospital train with the result that 27 
patients and attendants were killed and 79 wounded, and 
eleven trucks of medical stores were destroyed. Additional 
casualties outside the hospital area were 8 killed and 36 
wounded: the railway line had been made fit for traffic 
once more by 8 p.m. on the ist of June. There were many 
similar attacks on the Etaples bridge: the line was broken 
for a few hours on the 30th of June, and again with more 
serious effect on the 24th of July. On the latter occasion 
a bomb exploded on the main track near the Etaples 
station, and an empty goods train from Abbeville plunged 
into the crater with the result that there was much con- 
fusion and delay to traffic. The usual practice, as noted 
below, was to bring trains to a halt when they came near 
a station which was under attack, but on the night of the 
24th of July, for some unexplained reason, this precaution 
was not taken. Nor was it only the railway system which 
was affected. No. 3 Medical Board Depot Camp, near 
the station, suffered heavily. The military casualties in the 
camp were 39 killed and 91 wounded and, additionally, 
12 civilians were killed and one was wounded. Apparently 
one bomb sufficed to inflict these serious casualties : it was 
of a heavy type and seems to have burst above the ground, 
radiating destruction in all directions : no bomb crater was 

A word must be said on the subject of warnings and 
of general precautionary measures, so far as they con- 
cerned the railways. The night traffic required for the 
maintenance and movement of the armies on the Western 
front, especially from March 191 8 onwards, when a suc- 
cession of battles on a big scale were fought in different 


areas, was prodigious. The traffic had to be kept moving, 
even at some expense to safety. The general orders v^ere 
that trains must keep running between stations, but that 
they must hah when they approached a station which was 
actually being bombed. On the Nord system information 
about night raiding enemy aircraft was telephoned to the 
Commission de reseau which thereupon instructed, by code 
telephone signal, the particular stations, which the move- 
ments of the raiders indicated might be affected, to put 
out their lights. As the bombers passed on their way, a 
warning message was progressively sent out ahead of 
them, while an 'all-clear' signal was given to stations no 
longer threatened. The efficiency of the French railway 
warning scheme was greatly helped by the regular habits 
of the German bombers, which made it possible after a 
time for the French railway authorities to forecast with 
fair accuracy the probable enemy ob j ectives on each specific 
occasion. The ideal aimed at by the French was the sweep- 
ing of the country-side with an area of darkness which 
would always be under the bombers, and would endure no 
longer, nor be more extensive in area, than was strictly 
essential for the confusion of the attacking pilots. 

It is obvious that how far such an ideal may be possible 
of achievement must depend upon the efficiency and the 
speed with which information about the movements of 
enemy bombing aircraft is collected and distributed. 
The restriction of such interference with general activities 
as the passage of hostile aircraft may achieve is a ques- 
tion of considerable importance. There seems little doubt 
that some such system as that elaborated to deal with 
military railway traffic in France, whereby warning pre- 
cautions were given and relaxed with a rapidity which aimed 
at keeping pace with the raiders, will come to be recog- 
nized as generally desirable. In this matter the defence 
enjoys the abiding advantage that the waves by which in- 
formation may be communicated, whether wireless or tele- 
phonic, travel at a speed which no bombers will attain. 
This basic fact makes the efficiency of any warning system 
a matter mainly of organization. It may appear tempting, 
in times of peace, to pay no more than perfunctory atten- 


tion to this problem, but it must be apparent that neglect 
carries with it ponderable risks. It would be a matter of 
grave difficulty to improvise, in the confusion of war, a 
warning organization which would work with that degree 
of efficiency essential if one of the most serious of the 
indirect effects of the bombing threat is to be kept at 
a minimum. The organization must be perfected as an 
ordinary defensive measure under peace conditions, and 
a study of the day-to-day working of a railway system 
would appear to offer suggestions adaptable to the or- 
ganization of an air raid warning scheme suitable for the 
emergency of war. 

Although the damage inflicted by the German railway 
bombers was not vital, it should be remembered that the 
threat was continuous during the months of anxiety when 
the German armies were battering the Western front. 
News might come on any night of lucky hits which would 
lead to traffic dislocations on a scale big enough to affect 
British military plans. There were also other reasons for 
disquiet. The German advance had compressed the area 
in which the vast business of supply had to be conducted. 
In many depots there was congestion which little could be 
done to relieve. Within a short journey of the enemy aero- 
dromes there were many targets of first-class military im- 
portance and of a vulnerability which placed them very much 
at the mercy of air bombers. The targets indeed were far too 
numerous for the attenuated German air service to deal 
with at all adequately. The German armies had created, 
by their deep advance in March and April 191 8, a situation 
which was so favourable for air action that the German air 
service, had it been strong enough to take advantage of 
the situation, might possibly have changed the course of the 
war. Happily for the Allied cause, the German air service 
was far too weak, comparatively, to do any such thing, 
but, as shall be told, the damage which it was able to 
inflict was sufficiently serious. 

Between 10.15 P-^^- ^^ ^^^ 19th of May and 1.25 a.m. 
on the 20th, about 500 bombs were dropped on No. 12 
Ordnance Depot at Blarges, and on No. 20 at Saigneville, 
north-west of Abbeville. Twenty-two officers and men 


were killed and 78 wounded, and there was much mis- 
cellaneous material damage, some of it to an ammunition 
store, but there were no explosions. At 10.15 P-i^- on the 
20th the bombing was resumed, and it continued until 
4 a.m. on the 21st. Soon after the attack started an in- 
cendiary bomb hit a hangar containing cordite in the 
ammunition depot at Blarges, and flames lighted the coun- 
try-side throughout the remainder of the night. It was 
therefore a comparatively simple matter for the German 
pilots who came after to choose their targets, and it was 
not long before the depot was burning in many places. 
When the ammunition began to explode the whole area 
became an inferno. One shed, stocked with trench mortar 
bombs, which was directly hit, disappeared with a roar 
that assailed all ears for miles around, leaving only a crater 
fifty yards wide and ten yards deep. Throughout the 21st 
of May the explosions in the depot continued, and when 
at last they came to an end and it was possible to take stock 
of the damage it was found that 6,000 tons of ammunition, 
out of an original total of 27,000 tons, had been destroyed 
with many buildings. The casualties were no more than 
3 killed and 8 wounded, and they were light because the 
bombing attack on the previous night had induced the 
authorities to move the quarters of the personnel some 
distance from the depot, a movement which was just com- 
pleted in time. General Foch, who heard of the attack 
with some concern, sent an officer to seek full information 
about the happening. 

Next night, the 21st /22nd of May, the bombers turned 
their attention to No. 20 Ordnance Depot at Saigneville, 
where 40,000 tons of ammunition were stored. As 
they had done at Blarges, they attacked in relays over a 
period, and once again they had early luck. One of the 
first bombs to fall exploded in a shed stacked with small 
arms ammunition, which caught fire. Shortly afterwards 
cartridges for 6o-pounder and 6-inch howitzer shells were 
hit, and when they were fully alight the blaze was visible 
forty miles away. Five thousand six hundred tons of 
ammunition were destroyed, including the whole stock 
of sixty-nine million rounds of small arms ammunition. 


On the 1 8th and 19th of May a dump containing 1,000 
tons of shells had been blown up at Campagne in the 
Second Army area, so that during four successive nights 
the enemy bom_bing pilots destroyed a total of 12,500 tons 
of ammunition. 

It was about this time that the Germans ceased to 
bomb England. No doubt the increasing efficiency of the 
defence measures at home had something to do with this 
decision, but German authorities have stated that from 
May 191 8 onwards the Western front claimed their full 
attention, and that it was mainly for this reason that the 
air attacks on England ceased. It may be that the destruc- 
tion, on successive nights, of tv/o British depots in France 
illuminated, for the German general staff, targets of great 
military importance on the Western front which were 
being left undisturbed because energy was being dissipated 
in attempted attacks, of a military value which it was 
difficult at the time to assess, on London and other English 
cities. It may be argued that the German bombers had 
luck on their side when they exploded the ordnance depots 
in France, and that a similar success with, say, Woolwich 
Arsenal, might have had incomparably greater results. 
There are those who believe in the so-called strategic 
bombing of industrial centres and similar targets, with no 
more than a minimum diversion of force for the duties of 
military co-operation, and those who assert, on the other 
hand, that the object, in a land war, is to defeat the enemy 
army and that, as a corollary, the maximum force must be 
made available to support the army in the field. An 
archangel perhaps might give definition, in this connexion, 
to the words 'minimum' and 'maximum'. The matter, 
surely, is not one for dogmatic assertion either way, with 
schools of thought in exacerbated opposition. Rather is 
the question one of common sense, to be decided according 
to all the relevant circumstances. In 191 8 the German 
command sought a decision on the Western front. The 
supreme effort failed, and subsequently until the end the 
German armies were fighting for their very existence. From 
March 191 8 onwards the Western front dominated the 
whole war panorama, a fact v/hich made essential the 


concentration of every energy in furtherance of what 
was the decisive campaign. The material for a bombing 
offensive against England on a scale which would offer im- 
portant results, in strict co-ordination with the military 
offensives in France, was not available. As a result of such 
attacks as Germany had been able to make, Britain had 
already been compelled to take elaborate defensive pre- 
cautions which had diverted men, guns, and equipment 
for home defence. From a military point of view all Ger- 
many needed to do was to keep the threat alive sufficiently 
to ensure that the defence personnel and equipment in 
England would not be dispersed to more active theatres. 
It seems clear that from the moment when the German 
high command decided to make a grand offensive on the 
Western front, every resource had to be put into the 
battle which must prove decisive, one way or the other. 

It will be apposite here to refer to some comment on 
the subject of the strategical employment of the German 
bombing resources put forward in an earlier volume^ when 
the general and specific effects of the German air raid 
campaign against Great Britain were analysed. It was 
suggested that the enemy night-raiding campaign which 
began in September 191 7 represented to some extent a 
waste of effort because it led to a dissipation of strength. 
The comment was offered that the German command 
should have waited, and should have co-ordinated the 
night campaign against England with the military offen- 
sive which was launched against the British armies in 
March 191 8. The following words, however, were included 
by way of qualification : Trovided always that the Germans 
'intended to employ part of their bombing strength against 
'England, and not to concentrate their entire resources on 
'attacks on military objectives on the Western front.' 
These words were expressly inserted in order that the 
matter might be left open for further consideration in the 
light of the bombing attacks on military objectives in 
France as set out above. The reader now has the main 
facts before him and he will no doubt conclude that, so 
long as targets of first-class military importance in France 
' Vol. V, pp. 152-9. 

i9i8] COMMENT 427 

lay wide open to attack at a crucial time, a continuance 
of the bombing campaign against England, whether co- 
ordinated with the military campaign in France or not, 
was an unjustifiable dissipation of effort. The one possible 
exception was, as already suggested, such action, on a 
strictly economic basis, as might be judged essential to 
stay any suspected or ascertained dispersal of British home 
air defence units. 

For the Allies there were special circumstances which 
made attacks on German industrial centres seem to offer a 
prospect of important results, moral rather than material. 
So long as the German offensive endured, with the perils 
which it brought in train, so long was it imperative for 
every Allied resource to be concentrated on the decisive 
front to bring about the defeat of the enemy purpose. No 
profit would have resulted from attacks on distant targets 
in Germany if the German armies had broken through 
the Western front. When, however, the onslaught ended, 
there was much to be gained from a judicious employment 
of the air weapon against military targets in Germany. 
The German people, blockaded, had sustained a long war 
and they were more afflicted with war weariness than the 
Allied peoples. It was obvious to the Germans that their 
resources were exhaustible, and when the great offensive 
in France came to its indecisive end, every intelligent 
German must have become aware that his country, cut 
off from the world and facing enemies who had the vast 
resources of America at their disposal, had shot her bolt. 
The farther bombing aeroplanes penetrated into Germ